Private investigator using DSLR camera in investigation

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Private Investigator?

Unfortunately, the uncertainty surrounding the cost of hiring a private investigator can be off putting for many. In truth, there are several factors effecting how much an investigation may cost, such as type of service and its complexity

Far from being shrouded in mystery as shown in films and TV, a reputable private investigator will be open about their rates, and willing to work with your budget. Before deciding to hire professional investigative help, we’d always recommend finalising your budget, as well as fully exploring the costs involved.

How much does a private investigator cost?

The price of hiring a private investigator will vary greatly from case to case. The main factors effecting cost are:

  • Estimated time frame to complete the investigation
  • When the surveillance work will take place – for example, many investigators charge a higher rate for night work
  • The number of investigators working the case
  • Any special tools or surveillance equipment required

In the UK, you can expect to pay around £50 – £100 per hour for private investigation services. However, as outlined below, you may be charged a flat rate for a more straightforward case.

Your budget and the estimated price of your desired services should always be openly discussed during your initial consultation to avoid any uncertainty about costs.

Female private detective meeting with client to discuss case

Creating an investigation budget

Before you hire a private investigator, its essential that you create a realistic budget. It’s important to advise a PI of your maximum budget during your initial meeting. From here, they will be able to recommend the most suitable services for you.

When do I pay?

Private detectives will typically ask for a certain percentage of the final cost to be paid upfront, with the remainder of the balance paid once the investigation has concluded.

Ensure that a written contract is signed, outlining the agreed services and the rates being charged. This will help avoid any payment discrepancies.

How do I pay?

Despite the mysterious nature surrounding private investigation work, all PIs work within the parameters of the law, and will operate as any normal trading business. As such, they will usually accept all means of payment.

How does a private investigator charge?

When you hire a private investigator, you will find that they have several different charging methods, including a flat fee and an hourly rate. How you will be charged will primarily depend on the services you require and the nature of the case.

Flat fee

A flat fee will usually be charged for basic services that are easy to complete and that are unlikely to face any complications. Such services that often incur a flat fee are background checks and vehicle registration searching.

Hourly rate

An hourly rate will usually be used for more complex investigations, such as infidelity or missing persons cases. The majority of private investigations will be charged by the hour.

Most detectives will be able provide an estimate of how long the investigation will take. If you’re concerned about an unknown total, be sure to ask for an estimated time frame during your initial consultation to help you gauge costs.

Close up of detective shaking hands with client over cost of service

Additional fees when hiring a private investigator

You should bear in mind that the flat fee or hourly rate is often not the final cost. Most private detective companies will also charge a mileage fee to cover fuel costs in the instance that your investigation requires the use of a vehicle. You will also be expected to reimburse any moneys spent on food or drink if the detective is required to sit in a café or restaurant as part of their investigative work.

If a legal trial is conducted based on the findings from the investigation and the detective is required to give evidence in court, this will usually incur an additional fee.

Its also important to note that most advertised rates do not include VAT, which will be added to your total fee.

Should you hire a cheap detective?

In your search for a private detective, you may come across a PI offering unusually low rates with success guaranteed. However, you should proceed with hiring such a company with caution. The low costs could be an indicator of lack of experience or qualifications.

As necessary as it often is, hiring a private investigator is not cheap, nor should it be. Opting for a budget detective may result in a failed investigation, as well as potential legal issues. If you’re unsure about the quality of your chosen PI, we’d recommend asking for references from previous customers.

Are you thinking of enlisting the services of a private detective? With over 60 years’ investigative experience and a team of specialist PIs, Trojan Surveillance are here to help. To find out more about our services and fees, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Private detective taking photograph during investigation

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