How much does a Private Investigator cost?

Are you wondering, “how much does a private investigator cost?” As any experienced operator will tell you, every case is different and must be judged on its merits, so ensure you speak directly with an investigator for an obligation-free quote. In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to get you started.

Private Detective Prices


There’s a world of confusion when it comes to the niche service area of private investigations. Hiring a private eye is something most people will only ever do once or twice in their lives, so there’s a lack of awareness around what private eyes do and what costs are involved.

Whether you need to identify a fraudster, catch a cheating partner, locate a family member , detect a forgery or solve some other problem, prospective clients of an investigator will often be fraught with emotion. Making sensible decisions in a frantic state of mind is difficult enough and unfortunately, clients are faced with the added risk of unscrupulous providers: investigators who take advantage of the industry’s weak regulations.

The first step towards getting a good price is to research your investigator to make sure he or she is licensed, experienced and gets results. To ensure you don’t make your difficult situation worse, you need to do some investigating yourself and confirm your Private Investigator operates in an ethical manner.

You can be confident however that many of Australia’s private investigators are licensed, reputable professionals who are able to provide you with excellent investigative services within a clear timeframe and budget that works for you.

Keep reading to find out how a professional private investigator will ensure work is carried out in a cost-effective and competent way.

Want to speak to a private investigator today? You can head to our contact page and fill out a 100% confidential enquiry form to get a prompt response from one of our licensed team members.

How much do private investigators cost?

Is it surveillance you’re after or a simple background check? Perhaps you need a signature analysis or a computer investigation. The Cost of a Private Investigator comes down to the kind of investigation you need and other variables, such as location. The very best ways to keep costs down is to communicate clearly at an early stage with an investigator so the matter can be planned and carried out strategically.

Fixed Fees

Missing Persons / Background and Asset Checks

Investigations into missing persons, such as debtors or long-lost family members, as well as background checks and asset checks primarily involve database searches. This means they can usually be accommodated within a fixed schedule of costs. You can enter into an agreement with an investigator for a particular type of work to be carried out in exchange for a fixed fee. This means you know exactly what you will spend before you enter into an agreement.

Just how much a missing person search will cost depends on a few variables. Your private investigator should be able to let you know what these are and how they’ll affect your fees. For example, locating a John Smith is much more difficult than locating a person with a unique name!

Handwriting or Signature Analysis

This is another area where an investigator can work to a fixed fee. Once a handwriting expert has looked at the documents you wish to compare, he or she can advise you of the cost of preparing the kind of report you need. There may be court attendance fees later on, but they will only be incurred if you choose to use the report that has been provided within an agreed-upon budget.

Hourly Rates


Matters involving field work, such as surveillance engagements, are sometimes charged at a flat rate but are usually charged based at an hourly rate along with any associated expenses. Even if the costs are charged at an hourly rate basis, you can still get a pretty good idea of the rough budget before proceeding. The cost is usually variable to some extent because it’s often not possible to accurately predict how long an investigation will last, how far the investigator will need to travel or how much footage will be taken. An investigation is, by definition, concerned with the unknown.

Once you have discussed the strategy with your investigator, regardless of whether you are offered a flat rate or an hourly rate, ensure you are clear about the expected cost. Although the overall cost will rarely be precisely predicted if charged at an hourly rate, this doesn’t mean that the fees are calculated at random. In most cases, the budget for the work can be accurately anticipated. A professional investigator should be able to show you how hourly surveillance rates and kilometre rates are incurred. In some cases, you will be perfectly happy to exceed the expected cost because the evidence you are getting is exactly what you need. Ensure your investigator keeps you updated about developments during a surveillance operation so you can keep control over costs.

Want more information? 3 Steps to Hiring a Private Investigator

The location of your matter can also affect how much a private investigator costs.

Location usually won’t affect fixed fee matters (see above) but in investigations involving field work, the more remote the location, the higher the fee. This is because there are few investigators in rural areas and so travel time needs to be incurred. The best way to get a clear idea of costs in your location is to speak to an investigator directly for an obligation-free consultation.

In field work, sometimes more than one private investigator is needed. The overall cost of your investigation will depend on how many operatives are utilised.

Engaging multiple investigators is sometimes not just recommended – it can be absolutely imperative. For example, following a subject person from a busy airport is basically impossible with one investigator. There needs to be one operative inside the terminal to identify the subject getting off the plane and follow the subject to baggage claim and at least one other operative stationed outside in a vehicle or taxi. The operatives can communicate and ensure the operative in the vehicle is correctly positioned to begin vehicle surveillance around the time the subject emerges from the airport terminal.

The best way to ensure your funds are expended wisely is to take the advice of your experienced investigator. If it is recommended that you need two operatives, in the long run it will probably be cheaper to go with that recommendation and do it properly the first time. If you have to go back and do it again (if you get a second chance that is), it’ll no doubt increase costs.

Want real results? Avoid cost-cutters and substandard operators.

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Nowhere is this old Red Adair adage more relevant than in the area of legal representation and investigations. Lawyers and investigators represent people who are at very vulnerable points in their lives and desperate for help. The problems encountered by investigators often require careful, strategic thinking and, where applicable, an understanding of the legal question that the evidence will go to support.

If price is important to you (and let’s be honest, when isn’t it?) then make sure you choose your private investigator based not on the lowest hourly rate but on the level of service and attention that you receive. Every problem is different and an investigator who offers a one size fits all solution is not going to help you get to where you need to go. Only a careful investigative plan, tailored to fit your budget is going to get you the answers you seek and allow you to move on once and for all from the problem that has caused you to take action.

Money is always important and that is the very reason why hiring a private investigator based on price and price alone could be one of the mostly costly mistakes you ever make. Do your research, be upfront about your finances and find a reputable private investigator that is qualified to get you the results that make your investment worthwhile.

Want to speak to a private investigator today? With operatives active nationwide, we’re one of Australia’s largest private investigative firms offering the broadest range of investigative services. Fill out a 100% confidential contact form with your question or enquiry now and we’ll be in touch with you very soon.

You can read more about our firm’s experience here.

Lyonswood Investigations & Forensic Group


Lyonswood Private Investigations has a national and international capability with investigators located across Australia and around the globe.

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