private investigators in New York

If you’re considering working with a detective for the first time, you probably have many questions. For most, one tops the list: how much does a private investigator cost? The answer varies, from the type of investigation to the amount of time the investigator provides. If you’re ready to find a private investigator, Beau Dietl & Associates offers a closer look at what determines the cost of their services.

How Do Detectives Charge for Private Investigation Services?

Private investigators assess fees for their services in several ways. Be sure to ask how your job will be priced upfront to avoid unexpected charges or going over budget. The three primary methods for setting fees include:

An upfront retainer:

Investigation companies incur numerous expenses when working your case, from specialized surveillance equipment to hourly wages for support staff. Charging a retainer fee before undertaking a job provides the funds needed to pursue leads and produce evidence.

Hourly rates:

Many investigators charge an hourly rate based on the complexity of the service provided and may offer discounts for longer projects. Keep in mind that this hourly rate may be charged on top of a retainer fee. If your investigator charges a retainer fee, they may refund a portion of this if hourly rate charges add up to a lower value. Others keep the full retainer and any hourly charges.

Flat rates:

Most investigators offer several services based on simple, routine tasks. These include background checks, document retrieval, and location of recently missing persons. A flat rate reflects the relative simplicity of these tasks and the speed with which they may be completed.

Due to these variations, the average price for private investigator services is hard to assess. Be open with your detective about your expectations and budget. This ensures the best value for your investment and a successful resolution to your case.

What Factors Influence Cost When You Hire a Private Investigator?

Any experienced investigator can tell you that no two cases are alike. The total cost of their work depends on a variety of factors as unique as your case itself. These include:


Some cases are cracked in a single afternoon, or even an hour. In other situations, the length of an investigation stretches on for days or weeks. A good detective won’t rush the process, and gathering evidence, tracking down leads, and confirming information can take time for far-reaching or intricate inquiries. For the most complex cases, a team of experienced detectives may be required. As the number of hours spent investigating rises, so too will the detective’s fee.


When your safety or success depends on accurate, timely information, only a highly experienced investigator will do. Seasoned detectives with extensive experience in serving personal and private clients are likely to charge higher rates because of the value of their expertise. Keep in mind, however, that a less-experienced detective may require additional time to resolve your case – or be unable to do so at all.


If your case requires search or surveillance fees or extensive travel, the investigator’s fees will be higher. The added expense helps cover the costs of gas, plane tickets, overnight hotel stays, unique equipment, and more.


Just as living in major metropolitan areas costs more than life in a small town, most services are more expensive in large cities. Investigation companies are more expensive to operate in these locations, and detectives must pass some of this cost on to clients. At the same time, unraveling cases and tracking down evidence in big cities is more challenging, and it’s far less likely you’d be able to do so yourself.

Maximizing Your Investment in Private Investigation Services

You get what you pay for – it’s an expression you’ve probably heard before, and it’s always true when it comes to hiring an investigator. Still, most clients hope to control costs while getting the best value for their investment. With the tips below, you can make the most out of your money spent on investigative services and achieve the results you require.

1.) Prioritize quality.

Working with a less-qualified private detective may save a few dollars in the short-term but can require more time to complete your case due to inexperience. At worst, you’ll need to start again with a new agency and waste your initial investment.

2.) Confirm costs.

Make sure you get a detailed payment plan to avoid hidden fees and surprise charges.

3.) Be transparent.

Disclose all relevant information to your detective, and update them frequently as the situation evolves. There’s no need to be embarrassed about sensitive situations or worry over potential implications. A good detective works with discretion and always protects the interests of their clients.

4.) Trust your investigator.

You hired a detective to uncover unseen facts. While it’s always wise to share your thoughts, let them take the lead. Distracting and redirecting them can waste time and money.

5.) Purchase time in bulk.

A larger upfront investment helps ensure your investigator remains focused on your work from start to finish. If they’re working piecemeal and jumping between clients, they can lose focus and slow progress.

Are private investigators worth it? The answer depends on the quality and expertise of the agency you hire. At Beau Dietl & Associates, our team of former senior law enforcement, military, and security professionals utilizes more than 30 years of experience to give every client the best value possible. To learn more about working with a private investigator, contact us today.