What Does a Private Investigator Charge and How do They Charge for Their Services

PI in a trench coast holidn a hat in one hand and a stack of 100 dollar bills in the otherPrivate investigators help individuals, companies, and governments investigate different kinds of cases, charging accordingly for the services they provide. Those who work in the field are often well trained, and as such can command generous compensation packages, when properly negotiated. If you are looking for their services, you might have wondered what does a private investigator charges?

Among the public, there is very little understanding about how private investigators charge for their services. Eventually, everything boils down to money, so without further ado, let’s move on to how much do private investigators charge?

Here we will take a look at some of the standard ways private investigators charge their clients for the services they provide:

By the Job

A private investigator may charge clients by the job, more or less agreeing to charge a certain rate for a specified amount of work. These kinds of arrangements are less common because investigative work tends to lead to unforeseen expenses, resulting in the investigator’s overall net pay being less under this kind of arrangement. An alternative to the flat rate is that the investigator may agree to charge hourly, but with an overall cap on charges to protect the client.


Most private investigators charge for their services by the hour. Hourly rates vary by the kind of case and generally range from $20 to $40 for typical cases. But, in high-profile investigations, or in cases that will require the work of multiple investigators, this hourly rate could go significantly higher. For example, an investigator who is looking into governmental wrongdoing could potentially charge over $100 per hour.

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Private investigators routinely charge customers for the expenses they incur during the course of duty. These expenses include purchases of case-specific supplies, fuel, and even food, depending on the client and the case.

Overall, private investigator compensation is highly negotiable and will vary from one company to the next. Due to the highly specialized nature of the profession, good private investigators can charge substantial sums to their clients, and have much of the expenses they incur while conducting the investigations covered as well.

The national median hourly wage of a PI in the United States is reported to earn about $25.64 per hour in May 2020. This may vary depending on the states, metropolitan, and non-metropolitan state areas.

You can also go to official websites to know how much a particular agency charges or check the labor market estimates on government websites to give you a fair share of an idea. The level of experience and the intricacy of the cases also play an important role in determining the overall cost estimate and variation.

To give you a better estimation of how much a PI may charge based on their services, it is always advisable to check the hourly wages or the average median salary that a Private Investigator makes at your home state to assess how much you might be expected to pay up!

Interested in becoming a Private Investigator? Find PI programs and education options near you.


May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary and Job Market Figures for Private Detectives and Investigators reflect state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

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