How much does a private investigator cost?
Ashburn, VA

How much does a private investigator cost?

Ashburn, VA

How much does a private investigator cost?

$75 – $125 cost per hour
$600 – $1,000 cost per day

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$75 – $125 cost per hour

$600 – $1,000 cost per day


Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
Are you a service provider? Get new customers
Sarah Noel
Written by
Sarah Noel
Edited by
Tamatha Hazen
Fact-checked by
Kristen Cramer

Private investigator cost

Hiring a private investigator costs $75 to $125 per hour on average. Private investigator prices are $125 to $400 per hour for specialized services. A private investigator costs $600 to $1,000 per day. Total private investigator prices depend on the detective's experience and type of services requested.

Private investigator cost
Charging method Average cost
Per hour $75 – $125
Per day $600 – $1,000

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Private investigator prices

Per hour

A private investigator costs $75 to $125 per hour for basic services or up to $450 per hour for specialized services with multiple agents.

Private investigator cost per hour
Service type Cost per hour Details
Basic $75 – $125
  • Surveillance
  • Single-agent investigations
  • Driving time billed against a retainer
Legal research $95 – $125
  • Record searches in public offices
  • Collecting info from databases
  • Preparing reports
Specialized $125 – $400
  • Senior investigators
  • Extra consultations
  • Personal security
  • Loss prevention planning
Teams of 2 – 4 agents $150 – $450
  • High-profile cases
  • Searches for those who don't want to be found

Per day

Hiring a private investigator costs $600 to $1,000 per day for 8 hours of work. Rates vary according to the agent's experience level and the complexity of the job. Discounted rates are available when you pay a retainer for extended ongoing research.

A private investigator photographing a man and woman on the street
A private investigator photographing a man and woman on the street

Private investigator flat rates

The following table shows the flat rates charged by private investigators for common services:

Private investigator flat rates by service type
Service type Average cost
Background check of a person or business $100 – $500
Locating a missing person $250 – $1,000
Phone number or email locator search $125 – $450
Cheating spouse investigation $800 – $2,500
Concealed financial asset search $500 – $2,500
Collection of witness statements $150 – $350
Employment location search / pre-employment check $150 – $450
Marriage & divorce history / pre-marital screening $50 – $450
Restraining order & legal process service $75 – $250
Bankruptcy, liens, & general court record search $50 – $90
Vehicle, driver's license, or social security search $50 – $150

  • Background check – Comprehensive research into a person’s financial, criminal, and personal history helps to verify identities and track illegal behavior.

  • Locating a missing person – A private investigator can track down people through many methods like phone tracing, court record searches, and email traces.

  • Professional screening – Investigations help to vet potential employees for important job positions with greater peace of mind.

  • Cheating spouse investigation – These cases are common for people considering divorce or those dealing with complex family legal problems.

  • Finding assets – Armed with advanced tools, an agent uncovers hidden assets like bank accounts or real estate purchases to help solve complex court cases.

  • Aiding legal processes – Private investigators support legal teams by collecting evidence, locating witnesses, and ensuring legal documents reach the right hands.

Private detective cost factors

Cost factors to hire a private investigator include:

  • Expertise level – More experienced investigators charge higher fees due to their extensive skills and proven track record.

  • Investigation type – Complex cases like fraud or surveillance are more expensive, but simpler tasks like background checks have a cheaper flat fee.

  • Number of investigators – Single investigator surveillance is much cheaper than teams with several agents.

  • Investigation duration – Longer investigations incur higher costs, though some investigators offer package deals for long-term work.

  • Location – Geographic location influences costs, with higher rates in major cities compared to rural areas. Fees also increase for researching all national records vs. in-state records only.

  • Phone & video service – Phone debugging costs $75 to $350 each depending on the total number of units or $750 minimum to sweep a whole home or office. Extracting data from phones or using video surveillance gear also costs extra.

  • Travel expenses – Clients typically cover any travel costs like driving time at $0.45 to $0.75 per mile, airfare, accommodation, and appearing in court.

  • Retainer fees – Most investigation firms have retainer fees of $400 to $2,500 or more, depending on how much work the case requires.

  • Risk & complexity – High-risk or complex investigations can have additional charges due to the challenges involved.

  • Reporting level – Detailed reports require additional preparation time, increasing fees.

  • Special skills – Investigators with unique skills or fluency in multiple languages can charge a premium for their services.

  • Urgency & availability – Rush jobs or after-hours investigations are subject to higher rates.

  • Confidentiality needs – High-profile or sensitive cases needing extra discretion can result in higher costs.

  • Legal fees – Collaborations with legal professionals or court appearances lead to additional fees. A lawyer costs $150 to $400 per hour. Attorney fees are $100 to $300 per hour.

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A magnifying glass sitting on a laptop keyboard
A magnifying glass sitting on a laptop keyboard

What can a private investigator do?

Things a private investigator can do for you include the following:

  • Surveillance – Private investigators skillfully monitor individuals, capturing information about their actions and relationships without attracting attention.

  • Evidence gathering for legal cases – Agents collect crucial data like video footage and financial details to support your court case.

  • Tracing missing individuals – Private investigators employ advanced techniques to locate people who are evading legal obligations or are lost. The agent can also collect a full history of previous addresses.

  • Identifying hidden assets – These agents can reveal concealed accounts, ensuring fair settlements in divorces or settlements.

  • Verifying witness credibility – Through interviews and research, private investigators confirm the reliability of witness accounts in legal battles. Some companies offer lie detector tests with a polygraph machine for an extra fee.

  • Leveraging technology – Some investigators offer digital forensics service to analyze computer hard drives for extra fees.

Private investigator FAQs

What is a private investigator?

A private investigator is a skilled professional hired to collect information and discreetly conduct research in various fields. These agents specialize in areas like surveillance, background checks, and locating missing persons.

Is it worth it to hire a private investigator?

Hiring a private investigator is worth it because:

  • An agent can identify potential investment risks with other companies.

  • The investigator can dig up additional evidence for court cases.

  • You receive in-depth information on others while maintaining your privacy.

  • You get customized advice on how to protect your personal security.

  • The consultant gives your case their full attention, unlike police who have many cases piling up at once.

Private investigators hold licenses to legally conduct civil and criminal investigations, according to their state's statutes. All private investigators must comply with laws and regulations, and their investigative powers can be more limited than those of law enforcement.

Do private investigators work with the police?

Private investigators can work with the police and are licensed professionals authorized to conduct both civil and criminal investigations within their state. Some agents were previously on the police force, so they operate under specific laws that typically respect local police regulations.

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Can a private investigator help in legal cases?

A private investigator can help in legal cases since they often have a law enforcement or criminal justice background to support defense attorneys and their clients. Criminal defendants or their lawyers typically hire agents to uncover evidence, locate witnesses, and conduct background checks.

Getting estimates from private investigators

Before hiring a private investigator near you, be sure to:

  • Compare estimates from several investigation firms.

  • Confirm if they have:

    • A degree in criminal justice or law enforcement

    • Any legal experience

    • Membership in an association of legal investigators

    • Security training

  • Ask for proof of licensing and insurance.

  • Read their past reviews on Thervo and Google.

  • Follow a payment plan. Don't pay the last invoice until after the job is complete.

  • Request a copy of the contract before they start investigating.

Questions to ask

Ask a potential investigator these important questions before they start your case:

  • How long have you been a private investigator?

  • Can you list any examples of court cases you've helped clients with?

  • What's your experience in personal security cases?

  • Do you offer a free phone consultation?

  • What type of investigations do you specialize in?

  • Do you work with local attorneys?

  • What kind of surveillance equipment do you use?

  • How much computer and phone forensics can you do, and what does it cost?

  • Which databases do you use to collect information?

  • What kind of discounts can I get for bulk background checks?

  • How will you protect my privacy during the investigation?

  • Are all your methods of investigation legal to use in court?