Before Thumbtack and Angie’s List, there was Craigslist, and before that there was Yahoo Groups. Today, we have a few online services promising consumers a low-cost investigation. Mainly, these services pop up because most private investigators charge an average of $85/Hour.
To stay competitive, a lot of private investigators are moving into home offices in order to reduce their operational costs. As a consumer, hourly rates are important – but I think it’s prudent to understand why private investigators charge $85 per hour in the first place.
I’m not going to break down the fees per hour – that’s a topic for a different discussion – but they include: Computer and camera equipment, video processing software, licensing fees, continuing education fees, liability insurance, errors and emissions insurance, travel time, gas and lodging, DVD shipping fees, case management software, taxes, government fees, database access fees, the list goes on… and on.
Being a private investigator is not cheap. No one is able to offer investigation services at “minimal” costs. While there are a few overhead costs that can be cut to offer a cheaper service, are they really worth it for you as a client? – smaller investigative teams, cheaper databases, no office locations, cheap cameras, old vehicles.
I think private investigators, and their clients, need to be reminded that when you hire a private investigator, you’re hiring more than a person with a video camera. I understand that most people simply want to run a background check on a nanny, or want video proof that infidelity is taking place. But in order to get that service, private investigators have to commit their time, family affairs, resources, life, and much more.
When you hire a private investigator to find a solution to your problem – you go home with peace of mind in knowing a professional is now on your team looking out for your best interests. Your problems just became their problems. While you go home to rest, a private investigator will be driving to an unknown location (often times in the middle of the night) while at the same time be processing the case in their heads to prepare for the investigation.
While you spend time with your family, a private investigator will sleep in hotel rooms hundreds of miles away from their family. I was a full time investigator for long enough to miss anniversary dates, birthdays, funerals, important life events, and many dates with my wife. The times we were together, we talked about cases and try to find solutions – even when my wife was not an investigator – she was there to listen to me while we were out on dinner dates. Private investigators don’t “clock out” at 5:00 pm.
While you sit in an office, a private investigator will sit in a hot car risking their health and life to try and solve a client’s problem. They will drive 90,000 miles per year. They will increase their chances of being involved in an accident 10 fold. For you.
Private investigators are expensive because you’re not just hiring a person with a video camera. You are hiring a person who is going to abandon their life to give you – the client – a person you can count on. When you sign that retainer agreement, you are signing on a confidant, an investigator, a consultant, and a person who will make your problems, theirs.
If you want a low-cost investigation, you would have to give up the expectations that are guaranteed by a private investigator. At the end of the day, you just have to figure out how much peace of mind is worth to you. How much is having a person that keeps your best interest in mind is worth you?
If you want a low-cost investigation, what you really are looking for is for a person that does not respect their profession and will fundamentally change the meaning of what it means for a private investigator to represent you and your problems.