Private Investigator - Reasonable Rates

PRIVATE offers private investigations at reasonable rates
Private Investigations - Reasonable Rates

Reasonable rates. How should one define "reasonable" and what does that really mean to you when looking for a private investigator? Let's take a few moments to understand a bit more how detective agencies charge for their services and how you can hire a private investigator reasonably.


I will start with the what it means to be reasonable. Let's have a look at by plugging "reasonable" into Google and see what we get. Some of the adjectives I see are "fair, moderate, sensible and sound". Does that seem about right? More importantly, how does reasonable pricing help you in choosing a private investigator?


Just for fun, I looked up some TV characters and they all were not immediately apparent. In 1974 Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files charged $200 a day or about $1,000 per day in modern money. Magnum, P.I. charged $250 per day or about $650 per day in 2018. Simon & Simon, as I recall, were about the same. Sam Spade took a pretty penny too in The Maltese Falcon. Of course, these are fictional, but some old school gumshoes I know recall the 70's and 80's being right on par with these numbers. I know in the mid 1990's I was charging $700 per day or $80 per hour in today's money.


Now, it is a bit cliche, but let's think of cars for a moment. Take for example these three vehicles: Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon Denali, Cadillac Escalade -- all basically the same cars, however, each one has it's own different design element, engine specifics and then other luxury comforts. But they are all the same body style, built by GM.

Licensed California private investigators are all licensed but they may differ in the services they provide and as such may cost a bit different from one investigator to the next. An arson investigator may charge $250 per hour with an 8 hour minimum. This is a specific skill set that takes years and years of training and education, therefore they demand more, in most cases. A private investigation agency working on corporate fraud cases can be $250-$1,000 per hour. This is because the intricacies involved in corporate fraud may be more challenging then a local child custody case.

The type of work is one thing, but the structure of the agency is another. Some agencies have large staffs of office and field investigators. This means they have a volume of work, which means they are valued by clients. It also means higher overhead.

Unless your matter is an intricate cross borders due diligence or fire investigation, you want to hire an investigative agency somewhere in the middle. Not too cheap (they have no work) and not too expensive (you may not need their special niche).


We get told often that our clients had no idea what a licensed private investigator costs. We like to say, that a professional licensed plumber cost more than we do. However, that is not always true. Depending upon the details of your matter, the true cost cannot be said ahead of time. What we can say is that we have starting fees and rates and after understanding your situation in-depth, we can give you more specific investigation fee structures in writing.

I'd like you to also consider not just what it cost to hire a private investigator, but to focus on what results you will achieve. What is the real cost of knowing more? What if our investigation alleviates doubts you once had? Isn't that what's called "peace-of-mind"? What really is the cost of having all your questions answered or to have legal ammunition to use in court that may just help you win your case?

The real value in a private investigator is in what they provide you and your legal counsel. Yes, of course you have to balance a budget, but do you have a reasonable budget to really achieve what is needed to allow your private investigator to do their job properly?


Going along the "reasonable" route, it is also important to have reasonable expectations. If your budget doesn't allow for a 2-3 person surveillance operation, and you hire only one private investigator to place your subject under surveillance -- then you have to reasonably understand that you may have some challenges along the way.

Another example is that you want a background investigation into a subject. If you truly want a reasonable snap shot of the person you will easily spend $1,000 and more in some cases. But, supposing your budget is less, then you have to take the information provided as it is, because your budget may not be enough to investigate as deeply or all of the directions it could go.


What a San Francisco Bay Area private detective charges will be far different then a private investigator in the Ozarks of Missouri would charge. Why? Because the cost of living is far different. Same people, same problems, but like anything else, it costs more to do business in California and our entire financial eco-system differs. It doesn't mean one investigator is more superior, it just means that we need to commensurate with the area in which we live. Wages in the San Francisco Bay Area are higher, homes cost a heck of a lot more and the list goes on.

So what really is a reasonable price to higher a San Francisco private investigator? What's it worth to you? Would you higher some Online service that farms their work out to other unknown private investigators on the cheap? Yeah, you might be paying $70 per hour (cheap fee) but they are in-turn paying a California (or other state) licensed investigator $30-40 per hour. Do you really get what you pay for? I think not, and it is no slam on a P.I. doing that type of work, it just means there is a middle man and the true investigator is not making the lions share.

Most San Francisco/San Jose private investigators seem to be in the range of $125 - 250 per hour. This is reasonable. Think for a moment of what it costs to run a business: licenses, insurance, staff, office, accountant, bookkeeping, vehicles, equipment, etc.


Our average rate is $125 per hour and there are discounts on multiple investigator cases and cases that run longer periods of time. We charge less for some hourly investigations and more on others. Your rates may differ. We also have many flat rate, per project investigations, searches, etc. In that case, you will know exactly what you will pay for a specific task, such as an asset search.

Depending on availability, we also have special offers from time to time. Please see our website for details.


Keep in mind the services you want. If you want a high profile firm, then you will pay high dollar. If you want a discreet, under the radar private investigator, then you will probably pay less. Investigators who have modest offices, work from home or out of a Starbucks usually have lower overhead.

Remember too, just because they have prior law enforcement or federal agency experience does not make them a better private investigator. It doesn't make them worse either. They just may be a bit more pricey. The world of private investigations is far different then police investigations with strengths and weaknesses to each.

When hiring PRIVATE you will be given our price in a contract. You will know exactly what you are receiving from our services and always ultimately in charge of your budget.

Give us a call: (800) 962-1931 to discuss how we might create a budget that works for your investigation needs.