Costs and considerations when hiring a private investigator

Seeking private investigator services? Get a free consultation today.


How much do private investigation services cost? Private Investigators are normally experienced and licensed to perform the services which they offer. Many of the databases that they employ to assist them in their searches have special legal requirements but usually offer valuable data. If you have a case that requires special attention, in most cases a private investigator will be able to help.

Here we can examine four normal payment structures that private investigation agencies often employ in their practice and see just how much it may cost to hire a PI firm.

How much does a private investigator charge?

The average cost of hiring a private investigator in the United States typically ranges between $40-$200 per hour. Your ultimate cost depends on a wide variety of factors such as your area and the agency and their specialty. Spectre Intelligence charges between $50-$150 depending on the type of case.

How much are retainers?

Another thing to consider would be retainers. Retainers are sums of money provided by the client up front. If you have a large case which requires the investigation’s company to front resources, they may require a retainer. Retainers often range from $500 – $25,000 depending on the case. Although, it is much more common for retainers to fall within the $500-$1500 range.

Typically, attorneys and private investigators bill against retainers until the service monies are fully used. Retainers that are not used are normally required by law to be refunded. However, you may owe more than your original retainer if the service dictates.

How to choose a private investigator?

We are thrilled if you decide to choose us as your next private investigator. However, if you are in a location in which we do not service or if you choose another agency, there are a few things you should know.

Check Their References and Reviews

There are frauds and deceivers in every industry and the private investigation industry is no exception. Companies such as Trustify deceive customers into believing they are legitimate and licensed while taking their hard earned money. If you have questions, ask for references. Honest businesses will always be happy to supply them.

Check their license

Here in Texas, you are required to have a license to perform investigations for any individual or company as a third party. License searches are available online, free of charge, on the Texas TOPs website.

Ask about confidentiality

 If you’re concerned with your privacy, ask about what security controls are put in place to protect your private information and data. In Texas, it is unlawful in most circumstances for a private investigator to share your confidential information unless you agree to.

Ask about their experience and training

You want investigators who are experienced in the work that they do. Spectre Intelligence only handles cases that we have experience with.

Ask about their insurance

Along with licensing, insurance is equally important. In Texas, liability insurance is required by law. Licenses are immediately suspended if insurance coverage lapses, and with good reason. Be sure they are properly insured.  

Discuss your expectations

As a client, you need to be sure that your goals are realistic and achievable. A good private investigator or agency will always ask about your ideal outcome. And of course, understand that no outcome can ever be guaranteed.


Many private detective/investigation agencies will charge for expenses depending on the case. At Spectre Intelligence, we normally work all expenses into our service rates so you know what you’re paying for up-front. However, some cases require expenses due to time or distance requirements. Here’s what you can expect in those circumstances.

  • Drive Time/Mileage – Mileage may sometimes be billed for travel cases such as surveillance or for the purpose of site-to-site. ($0.20-$0.75/mile)
  • Tolls – Toll roads, bridges, ferries, parking, etc.
  • Air Fare – Sometimes flying may be a requirement, although this is uncommon.  
  • Hotel Fees – Texas is a big state. If we’re working from one side to another, you can expect an 8-10 hour drive one way.
  • Court Appearances – These will normally be charged at the standard hourly rate.
  • Administrative Costs –  Some investigators will charge for things like mailing evidence, faxing, administrative staff, etc. Typically, this ranges from $50-$150.
  • Database Fees – We normally work database fees into our normal rates, however, in certain circumstances, we may require additional monies for database fees.

Lastly, if you have any concerns about what you’re being charged, ask. You have a right to know what you are paying for and what the total will be. You may contact us with a free consultation regarding your need for services. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have. For further information and for a free consultation, click here.

About us

Spectre Intelligence is a private investigation and intelligence firm located in sunny Round Rock, TX (Austin area). If you need investigation or cybersecurity services, visit us at and