What’s It Cost to Hire a Private Investigator?

hire a private investigator

Sometimes you need the truth. You think your spouse is having an affair with their secretary, or you need to know why that employee you recently hired isn’t forthcoming about their past. So naturally, you decide to hire a private investigator or private detective. Somebody to do your spying, so you don’t have to put in the work to follow, photograph, and investigate your suspicions.

But how do you get started? What can your private detective do, and how much will it cost you in the long run? These are important questions. Here at Spyalot.com, we’ve got you covered with answers. We’ll look at what goes into hiring PIs in four countries, what it might cost you, and how to hire a reputable private investigator.

Hiring a Private Investigator in the US

You’re in the United States, and you want to hire a private investigator. First things first: What will it cost you to hire a PI in the states? That’s a hard question. There is a wide variety of investigation firms across the fifty states, so coming up with hard numbers is virtually impossible.

Firstly, and you’ll see this pop up throughout the other countries, a PI will usually charge you an hourly rate on your job. This rate varies from PI to PI. Less experienced ones charge as low as $20 or $30 per hour, but experienced investigators backed by large firms could ask for upwards of $200. Some firms might offer services such as detailed background checks for a flat rate, but for anything complex, you should be prepared to pay a hefty fee per hour. The average rate is about $50 an hour.

So, what can this PI that you’ve hired do? Well, a private investigator isn’t limited to snapping a picture of your spouse intertwined with their illicit lover. Other services they can help with include finding stolen objects or missing people. Maybe Bob borrowed a thousand dollars then beat town – a PI can help you find him. Beyond that, they’ll have to follow the same surveillance laws you are if you were to do the spying yourself. They can’t trespass or take photos of people when they can expect privacy, like in the restroom or bedroom.

Probably the most important question you should be asking is how to find a reputable private investigator in the United States. Luckily, most states require private investigators to be licensed and uphold certain standards. Any reputable private investigator can give you their license information, which you can then validate online. Note that Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Wyoming are the only states that do not require a PI to have a license to operate.

Hiring a private investigator in the US overview:

  • Costs can vary wildly from state to state and firm to firm. You can usually expect to pay an hourly rate with an average of $50 an hour.
  • Private investigators can do much more than follow your spouse and watch for adultery. Do some research to make sure that the PI you want to hire can help with your job.
  • In every state except Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Wyoming, private investigators are required to have a license you can use to validate their credentials.


Hiring a Private Investigator in the UK

In the UK, you’ll find costs are similar to those in the US. You’ll generally pay an hourly rate that is entirely up to the detective or firm you’re hiring for your services. The type and expected difficulty of said job can influence the price you’ll be charged. You can expect an average hourly rate of around £55 an hour. Again, this is the middle of a range that could be as low as a few pounds an hour, and up to a few hundred.

Here, again, you’ll find that what a private investigator can and cannot do is quite varied. They can help you obtain information to help protect your business should the need arise. Is one of your employees claiming worker’s compensation, even though you’re sure that their leg healed weeks ago? A private investigator can follow them and snap a few pictures of leg day at the gym to prove they’re ready to come back to work.

There are some limits to the power of a PI, however. They can’t trespass on private property to gather information for their investigation, though a stakeout of another’s residence on a public road will typically be okay. Hiring a PI in the UK is similar to doing so in the US, but there is one glaring difference in how the two countries regulate their private investigators.

In the UK, private investigators are not regulated at all. There are no requirements for training or licensing. Any bloke on the street can declare themselves a PI, which makes it easy to hire a less than reputable character. One way to vet your future detective is to investigate their firm online. If they can’t point you to an office, there’s nothing to stop them from taking your money and running. Another way to find a reputable private investigator is through the Association of British Investigators, a company that helps lend credibility to private investigators in their network and does the legwork for you.

Tips for hiring a private investigator in the UK:

  • Be prepared to pay an hourly fee. Some of these fees go up according to the complexity of the job. Remember that if you get the cheapest investigator, you get what you pay for.
  • There are multiple jobs a PI can do for you, but you must remember that they are bound by the law, not above it.
  • The UK does not regulate private investigators, allowing virtually anybody to brand themselves as a PI and offer their services.
  • One of the safest ways to find a reputable PI in the UK is through the Association of British Investigators.


Hiring a Private Investigator in Australia

Australian private investigators will likely ask for prices similar to their counterparts in the other countries with a wide variety of hourly rates. They may also ask for a deposit or retainer to get money upfront as professional protection; this is also common in the other countries we’ve discussed. According to pricing information from several reputable Australian investigation firms, costs can run up to 3000 dollars for a single investigation depending on factors such as length and complexity.

Australian private investigators are beholden to many of the same laws the average citizen is. They have a lot of power to take photos of their target in public but can’t follow the target into the washroom. Similarly, a PI in Australia cannot perform any kind of wiretap to obtain information without crossing a line, nor can they impersonate a police officer, which is a serious offense. They can, however, utilize publicly available information such as schooling and housing deeds to locate a person quickly and efficiently.

It’s easy to find large Australian investigation firms simply by looking them up on Google. You’ll find that there are plenty of firms, varying from lone individuals to large offices with multiple investigators to help you find the truth.

Each of Australia’s six states has licensing requirements for their private investigators. Anybody who wants to become a PI has to be an Australian citizen and must complete a government-approved course to get the license. A degree in criminal justice can allow somebody to bypass the licensing exam.

This makes it far easier to find a good, reputable private investigator in Australia compared to the UK. Similar to the US, you can ask the investigator for their license information and check that it’s valid with your local government offices. Finding a reputable PI is vital as you may be giving them sensitive information, and the system in Australia makes it a clean, simple process.

Tips for hiring a private investigator in Australia:

  • You’re going to pay hourly rates, as well as a deposit or a retainer, before your investigator begins the job.
  • Australian privacy laws prevent private investigators from wiretapping any conversations, but they’re welcome to eavesdrop on their target’s conversations.
  • Australia’s states require that private investigators obtain licenses by passing a government-approved test, or in some cases, a criminal justice degree can be enough to get the license. This makes it easy to validate their credentials and ensure you’re working with a trustworthy investigator.


Hiring a Private Investigator in Canada

Once again, you’ll find that Canadian private investigators will ask for an hourly rate that could be as much as several hundred Canadian dollars. Here, and in the other countries we’ve discussed, you should also be prepared to pay for any additional expenses that the PI might rack up during the investigation. This could be as simple as a bit of extra mileage to get across town, but it could also involve larger transportation costs. If you’re in Toronto but want your PI to investigate your spouse in Calgary, be prepared to pay for a plane ticket and a few nights in a hotel.

That said, your Canadian private investigator will be well equipped to help you with your case. They can help with that ever-present threat of infidelity, or maybe prove that your business partner hasn’t been keeping with your deal and is going behind your back to help the competition. A private investigator in Canada can follow and take covert pictures of any target, so long as they obey the target’s right to reasonable privacy. They can’t break into the target’s home to find intel, even if it’s unlocked, but they can comb through public information like social media. Did your employee call out of work sick with the flu, only to post a video of him drinking at a party the night before on Twitter? A good PI will find out in no time.

Each of Canada’s territories and providences have slightly different regulations for how a private investigator can act. However, they’re pretty similar. All providences make private investigators obtain an official license. This makes it very easy to find a private investigator you can trust to help solve your problems and find the truth.

A great way to make sure you trust your private detective is to observe them during your initial consultation. If they make you uncomfortable, try to pressure extra money or personal information out of you, or their office is in disrepair or nonexistent, it might be a good idea to bail and find yourself a new PI. You don’t want to accidentally give sensitive information to somebody who will abuse it.

Tips for hiring a private investigator in Canada:

  • In addition to hourly costs and deposits, don’t forget that a private investigator may ask that they pay any expenses that they accumulate throughout the investigation, including but not limited to transportation costs.
  • Private investigators can take all the covert pictures they please as long as their target is in public, but once they go somewhere they can expect privacy or the private investigator tries to take an audio recording, they’ll be performing illegal acts of surveillance.
  • Each providence and territory have slightly different laws regulating how private investigators can act, but in general, they must all obey basic privacy laws, and all of them must obtain a license.

Hiring a private investigator to help you find the truth can be an invaluable resource. They can take care of the dirty spy work for you and make sure that nobody accidentally performs any illegal activities.

However, they can cost a pretty penny with hourly rates that can pass a hundred USD for larger, more experienced firms. And if you go for the cheap ones, you risk throwing your lot in with an unsavory character or inexperienced PI. The best advice we can give you is to thoroughly research the laws and firms in your area and do your best to validate the PI’s credentials, either through the local authorities or with a third-party such as the Association of British Investigators.