A common question we encounter is how much a private investigator costs. The cost can vary greatly depending on
1. the location of the investigation,
2. the type of investigation,
3. the depth of services required for the case,
4. the private investigator's level of quality and expertise.
While it is important to have a budget in mind, don't use it as an excuse to cut corners: Just because a private investigator is cheap, doesn't mean they are good. Otherwise, you may need to spend even more money hiring another private investigator, who is more expensive and better quality, to finish the job the first cheap investigator couldn't do.
Similar to an attorney or legal professional, private investigators typically work on a retainer. They will quote you an estimate that becomes the retainer amount. Keep in mind that retainers are non-refundable, so any amount left will not be refunded back after the service you hired them for is complete. However, that amount can be applied towards further services.
Just like you wouldn't walk out of the store without paying for your groceries, private investigators are not going to perform a service without upfront payment. This is for two reasons: 1. It establishes a business transaction between you and the investigator and 2., what may seem like "a simple search" or service, actually requires hours of work, research, and fees for using the resources and databases accessible to a private investigator. (After all, you wouldn't consider hiring a P.I. if the job was easy enough to do yourself!)
Any legitimate private investigators that provides services that require a retainer will draw up a contract for you to sign. A typical contract outlines the services requested by the client, the retaining cost, and a signed statement from you verifying that you are not using the information gathered by the private investigator for malicious or criminal intent.