A PeopleLooker Blog by Matthew Jones (How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost? | PeopleLookerBlog | People Searching Made Easy!) has an excellent overview of general information about the cost of hiring a private investigator.

ORISR works under the same common pricing structures; 1) Charging by the hour, 2) Flat Fee for service, and 3) Retainers.

  • Hourly Rates – ORISR’s standard hourly rate is $80/hr (without a retainer)
    • According to a recent national survey, the average hourly cost of hiring a private investigator ranged between $80 and $500 per hour.
  • Flat Fees – ORISR’s flat-fee pricing is negotiable depending and is based on the client’s specific needs.
    • Basic or routine investigative services that are straightforward to complete may be charged as a flat fee – meaning there is a fixed price for the service’s completion.
    • This type of pricing can be a particularly good choice for clients seeking repeat investigative work. Simple background checks meant to verify specific information would be a standard service charged with a flat fee.  
  • Retainers – ORISR’s retainers are negotiable (typically $400 minimum) and are dependent on the services requested. Typically, the hourly rate charged under a retainer contract is less than that charged without a retainer.    
    • Retainers are an upfront payment received from the client and are established based on the predicted amount of time that the private investigator may likely be required to expend.
    • Investigative fees and expenses are charged against the retainer.

Additional Cost Considerations

The overall cost of hiring a private investigator depends on:

  • The type of work that you need to be accomplished,
  • The location(s) where the work needs to be done and,
  • Most importantly, the amount of time an investigator spends working on your case.

Investigative Time vs. Real-Time

The amount of time spent investigating is not the same as the time the investigation takes. Some delays are inherent to any investigation when investigators (and their clients) are merely waiting for something to happen. For example, a case that runs several weeks (real-time) might only have a few hours of actual investigative time associated with it.

ORISR, along with all other ethical private investigative companies, only charge for “investigative time” spent on a case.

Case Time Estimates

It is difficult estimating how much time will be needed for each investigative request because no two situations, or requests, are the same. For instance, the time necessary to verify only specific information for a preliminary local background check might take just a few minutes, while an in-depth background investigation on someone who has moved frequently could take eight hours of work to complete. The same as finding someone who has just been “misplaced” will take much less time than locating someone who is actively hiding.    


Most investigations will incur some “expense” above the hourly rate charged by the investigator, except those charged at a flat rate. These expenses are most commonly associated with the travel, tolls, or fees that an investigator might incur specific to work needed on that case. Some common expenses include:

  • Drive Time/Mileage – How long and how many miles it takes for an Investigator to follow someone. (ORISR charges $.58/mile)
  • Tolls are charged at the actual cost.
  • Administrative Costs -Extraneous costs such as mailing evidence, copying fees, etc. are charged at actual cost.
  • Air Fare* – Charged at the actual expense.
  • Travel Per Diem* – ORISR follows the GSA per diem schedule when an overnight or extended trip is required.
  • Court Appearances* – ORISR charges a flat $250/day for court appearances.

*ORISR discusses all significant expenses with our clients before incurring them.  

Time Accounting, Invoicing, and Contracts

  • ORISR uses the legal industry’s standard of 6-minute time accounting, meaning that “billable time” is broken down into 6-minute increments (rounding up).
  • ORISR will provide clients with an invoice after the contracted services are completed. Monthly billing statements/invoices will also be sent should the contracted services last more than one month. Billing statements/invoices will include an itemized list of all case-related expenses charged to the client.
  • ORISR requires, and furnishes, a contract for all paid services.