How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost?

Last Updated:  
April 5, 2024
How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost?

If you're looking for a Private Investigator, it's pretty normal you want to know how much you should pay for investigative work before you commit to hiring someone. Most people have no experience with this type of situation and have no point of reference for cost, leaving you feeling vulnerable at an already vulnerable time. How much should I pay for Los Angeles private investigator work? Am I being taken advantage of? Is the cheapest option the best? Hopefully we can answer some of your concerns.

There are three primary ways that private investigators structure their fee’s. First, some charge a retainer fee upfront, which is considered a deposit to cover their expenses. Secondly, with or without a retainer fee, most private investigators charge an hourly rate which depends on the type of service. Often, they will charge a discounted rate for jobs they anticipate will be lengthy. This is one reason the price can vary greatly. A third option investigators may offer is a flat rate price for specific types of services. These can include jobs like background checks, document retrieval, or finding hidden assets.

In addition to the flat rate or hourly rate they charge, investigators may incur travel expenses, such as plane flights, hotel stays, mileage and gas expenses. It’s important to discuss your expectations with the investigator before you begin the process, so you are aware of potential costs. If you are booking time in advance, it helps to book a little more time than you think it will take, so they can stay on your case if the trail leads in a different direction.

Often, there are options for pricing, and most investigators work to suit your budget. Some may charge a lower hourly rate but do not give the attention your issue is entitled to. Make sure to do your due diligence on the pricing and timeline of service before you commit to a plan. Other types of investigations may not take a lot of time but remember that you are paying for the Investigators experience and knowledge to gather the information you require.

Factors that can Impact the Cost of a Private Investigator

No two cases are the same, nor do they take the same amount of time or resources to resolve. Jurisdiction is the first thing to consider, because larger cities are more costly to operate in. However, the larger the city, the less likely you are to solve the case on your own, which increases the value of an investigator. Complexity also weighs into the cost, since tracking down an estranged loved one is simpler than compiling substantial evidence for a court case. Likewise, the resources necessary to solve the case can vary greatly. Here are a few of the services private investigators provide.

Find a person
Online dating investigations
Forensic document examination
Catfish victim investigation
Tenant Screenings
Background checks
Pre employment background checks
Locating hidden assets
Family law support
Corporate investigations

Some cases will require search fees, surveillance fees, and special equipment, while others follow more basic protocols. One investigator may be all that’s needed to solve your problem, but in some cases, a team needs to be called in. The level of expertise can affect price as well, but you will get what you pay for. An experienced investigator has a proven track record of delivering results. If you go with a less experienced service, the price may be lower, but it might just be money down the drain.


How to Control Costs of an Investigation

While every case moves at its own pace, there are somethings you can do to speed it along.

Purchase hours in bulk – You might be tempted to purchase one hour at a time, if you think your case will be easy to solve. But cases can take unexpected twists and turns, so it’s more cost-effective to have your investigator honed in on your case. Hiring in snippets means they’ll take other cases in between yours, which might divide their focus. Plus, some companies offer discounts for longer jobs, so you benefit from lower pricing.

Trust your investigator - Hopefully this is the first and only time you will need an investigator, but that means you’re a rookie. If your investigator thinks a lead is worth following, let them follow the trail. If you divert them with your own ideas, you might deter the process.

Be transparent - Some things are uncomfortable to disclose, or you may even fear personal implications. But withholding information will only slow the process and make it more difficult to catch a perpetrator, abductor, or philanderer in the act. Give your investigator all the evidence you have, and update them if new information develops.

Choose wisely - While it’s tempting to save a few bucks upfront by hiring a less savvy team, the money is essentially wasted if they aren’t able to solve your case. Less experienced private investigators often lack a clear payment plan, so you could also wind up with hidden costs. You may face the burden of extensive hourly fees if they have trouble acquiring evidence. Often, people find themselves paying double to hire a second investigative company when the first one didn’t work out.


First things first, qualifications and experience trump everything. PI work is very specific in nature and requires time in the trenches, not just a website with unproven claims. Look for an investigator with a solid track record and experience. Its also important your investigator answers your calls and emails and is attentive to your case.

The circumstances that require a private investigator are often sensitive, urgent, or complex in nature. Don’t trust the outcome to someone who is unequipped for the job. Trust the experts at Doerner Investigations & K9 Detection to provide the answers you need. Our transparent pricing lets you know your money is well spent. We know how to find what you’re looking for. Contact us today to get started!

The Doerner Private Investigation team has the experience, expertise and discretion needed to get the job done.

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