Share This Post

How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost in the UK?

In today’s in-depth blog post, we embark on a comprehensive exploration of the costs associated with hiring a private investigator in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The realm of private investigation in the UK is broad, encompassing a wide variety of applications, from conducting detailed background checks to performing intricate surveillance activities. As such, private investigators play a pivotal role in gathering crucial information and evidence, catering to both personal and business requirements.

Whether you’re seeking a quick answer to “How much does a private investigator cost?” or a detailed breakdown of the services and pricing structures, this article aims to provide you with all the information you need. Moreover, if you’re considering hiring a professional investigator at competitive rates, this guide will offer insights into the factors that influence the costs and the value of the services provided.

Let’s delve into the specifics of private investigator costs in the UK, ensuring that while cost is a key consideration, it should never overshadow the quality and reliability of the investigative assistance sought.

So, How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost?

If you are looking for a short answer and you don’t have time to read the rest of our guide, we can tell you that UK private investigators generally charge from £50-£150 per hour. However, these rates depend on a number of factors, including the precise nature of the investigative work, the area in which the services are provided and the company with which you deal. For a more detailed answer to the question “How much does a private investigator cost?”, please continue reading below.

How Much You Can Expect to Pay for a Private Detective in the United Kingdom

As mentioned above, if you are paying for ongoing investigative work, you can expect to pay somewhere between £50 and £150 per hour. But not all jobs are charged at an hourly rate so you may be able to achieve your aims for a lower cost than you imagined. Hourly rates apply primarily to mobile surveillance services and are quite high due to the labour-intensive nature of such work. For other types of investigative services, you will often be offered a fixed fee option. The following are some common examples of where a fixed fee rather than an hourly rate may apply:

  • Tracing Individuals – If you wish to establish the current whereabouts of someone in the UK, you can find professional service providers such as ourselves who are willing to help you for a fixed fee, starting at £250 + VAT.
  • Asset Tracing – In line with other competitive private investigators in the UK, our corporate and private asset tracing services start at £600 + VAT.
  • Lie Detector Tests – Many private detectives offer a professional lie detector service for a fixed cost. Here at National Private Investigators, our lie detector packages start at £750 + VAT.
  • Process Serving – If you need to deliver legal documentation to individuals or commercial organisations in England & Wales (as part of a legal action), you can expect to pay anywhere from £300 + VAT for this service.
  • Bug Sweeping – Prices for bug sweeping vary quite widely and depend on the location, the size of the vehicle or building and the service provider you work with, among other factors. If you choose to work with us, we charge from £500-£1,400 + VAT for bug sweeping services, although the fee may be higher for larger commercial properties.

Other services that are often available for a fixed fee include vehicle tracking and background checks. For a firm quotation covering any services you may need, please feel free to contact us whenever convenient.

Exactly How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost? Additional Expenses to Consider

Whilst there should not be any additional costs associated with most fixed fee services, this is not the case for services that are charged at an hourly rate, such as surveillance operations and any administrative tasks associated with the investigations you require. Below are some examples of additional costs that you may need to factor into your budget when hiring a private detective on an hourly rate basis.

  • Hotels
  • Public Transportation
  • Event Entrance Fees – 
  • Parking
  • Special Dining Expenses 

While ordinary subsistence costs are included in most agencies’ hourly rates, if the subject of a surveillance operation spends the night in a hotel, takes a long train journey, attends a sporting/musical event or eats at an expensive restaurant, these and other additional costs may be incurred by the surveillance operatives.

For a precise answer to the question “How much does a private investigator cost?”, please don’t hesitate to call and let us know exactly what you need. Once we have all the relevant details to hand, we will be delighted to prepare a formal quotation for you to review.

Understanding Private Investigation Services in the UK

Private investigation services in the UK encompass a wide range of offerings designed to cater to various client needs. From personal matters to business concerns, private investigators in the UK provide indispensable assistance with their highly specialised skill set.

Types of Private Investigation Services Offered in the UK

When considering a private investigator UK, understanding the specific services they offer allows for a more informed decision-making process. 

Here’s a breakdown of these services:

  • Surveillance Services: Surveillance is a critical tool in many investigations. Whether it’s tracking a cheating partner, as offered by NPI’s cheating partner investigators in London, or conducting an insurance fraud investigation, surveillance can provide real-time information and tangible evidence.
  • Background Checks: This service involves compiling information on an individual’s history. It could involve checking criminal records, financial associations, employment history, or even social media activity.
  • People Tracing: Locating missing individuals or long-lost relatives falls under this category. Private investigators use various methods and resources to trace people successfully.
  • Asset Tracing: This service is vital for debt recovery or during divorce proceedings where one party may be hiding assets. It involves locating and valuing property or other assets owned by an individual.
  • Bug Sweeping: In situations where there’s suspicion of being spied upon, bug sweeping services can identify hidden cameras, microphones, or other electronic devices.

Other specialised services include child maintenance investigations provided by agencies such as NPI and cohabitation investigations offered by NPI.

Importance of Consultation in the UK Private Investigation Process

Engaging with a private investigator UK is not a decision to be taken lightly. It involves entrusting someone with sensitive personal or business information. Therefore, an initial consultation is crucial in establishing trust, understanding the scope of work, and setting expectations.

During this consultation, the investigator will assess the case, suggest appropriate services, and provide an estimate of costs involved. Clients should seize this opportunity to gauge the investigator’s professionalism, expertise, and confidentiality practices.

A personalised approach can significantly impact investigation outcomes. An investigator who takes time to understand the client’s unique situation can tailor their strategies accordingly, leading to more effective results. On the other hand, an investigator offering a one-size-fits-all solution may not adequately address the nuances of individual cases.

Factors That Influence the Cost of Hiring a Private Investigator in the UK

Here are key elements that play a substantial role in determining the cost of hiring a private investigator:

  • Type of Case: The nature and complexity of your case are primary factors. For instance, an infidelity case requiring round-the-clock surveillance will cost more than a simple background check.
  • Duration: The length of time required to resolve the case influences the cost. An investigation spanning several months will naturally be more expensive than one resolved in a few days.
  • Resources Required: The number of investigators needed, use of specialised equipment or vehicles, and any travel involved can add to the cost.
  • Expertise and Experience: Investigators with extensive industry experience and specialised skills may charge higher rates.

Each factor carries its own weight, impacting the overall cost.

Type of Case

A simple background check might require fewer resources and less time, therefore costing around £30 to £50 per hour. In contrast, an infidelity case involving surveillance could demand multiple investigators working shifts over several days or even weeks. This could push rates up to £100 per hour or more.


A case demanding long-term surveillance or extensive research can last for weeks or even months. For instance, tracing hidden assets across multiple jurisdictions is a lengthy process that can significantly increase costs due to extended hours and additional resources.

Resources Required

Certain investigations require specialised tools or equipment such as GPS tracking devices or high-tech surveillance gear. Additionally, if travel is necessary – whether domestically within the UK or internationally – it can substantially add to the overall cost due to airfare, lodging, meals, and other related expenses.

Expertise and Experience

Investigators with a proven track record and specific expertise command a premium. For instance, an investigator with a background in digital forensics or corporate espionage may charge higher rates due to the specialised nature of these investigations.

While hiring a less experienced investigator might seem like a cost-saving measure, it could lead to inferior results or longer investigation times, ultimately costing more in the long run.

Pricing in the private investigation industry is complex and varies widely. It’s vital to understand these factors when estimating the potential cost of hiring a private investigator in the UK.

Evaluating Costs: Understanding Pricing Models and Payment Options

When hiring a private investigator in the UK, understanding the pricing models is crucial. There are two primary approaches to pricing: hourly rates and fixed fees.

Different Approaches to Pricing: Hourly Rates vs. Fixed Fees

Hourly rates are common and can range widely, from £30 to £200 per hour, based on factors such as the complexity of the case, the experience of the investigator, and the resources required for the investigation. This model provides flexibility but can accumulate costs quickly if the investigation extends over a long period.

In contrast, fixed fees offer predictability in cost but may not cover unexpected complexities or additional resources required during the investigation. Services like background checks or vehicle tracking often come with fixed fees.

Common Payment Options Offered by UK Private Investigators

Payment options can vary among private investigators. Common methods include:

  • Bank Transfers: A secure method preferred by many due to its traceability.
  • Credit/Debit Cards: Convenient, but be aware of possible additional processing fees.
  • Cash: While accepted by some investigators, it lacks traceability compared to other methods.

Understanding these payment methods aids in planning your budget effectively when hiring a private investigator.

Significance of Hiring a Reputable Investigator Agency in the UK for Reliable Results

Selecting a reputable private investigator UK agency is paramount to achieving dependable outcomes. Clients entrust sensitive and often critical tasks to these professionals; thus, the quality of services received is directly proportional to the expertise and ethical standards upheld by the agency.

Why Reputable Agencies Matter

Reputable agencies maintain a commitment to deliver:

Discretion and confidentiality throughout the investigative process

Accurate and timely information, crucial for client decision-making

Compliance with UK laws and regulations, avoiding legal repercussions for clients.

Experience and reputation serve as indicators of an agency’s ability to handle complex cases effectively. With seasoned professionals at the helm, clients gain access to a wealth of knowledge, advanced surveillance techniques, and innovative technology, all contributing to a higher likelihood of case resolution.

Importance of Verifying Membership in a Recognised Trade 

Association like the Association of British Investigators

Membership in a recognised trade association provides assurance that a private investigator operates within a framework of integrity and professionalism. The Association of British Investigators (ABI) represents such an entity that sets standards for practice and conduct in the industry.

Benefits of Working with ABI Members

Benefits include:

  • Assurance that members have been vetted and adhere to a code of ethics
  • Access to continuous professional development for investigators
  • A means for clients to seek recourse should they need to raise concerns about service quality

Selecting an investigator affiliated with such associations mitigates risks associated with hiring freelancers or less reputable firms that may not provide the same level of service excellence or accountability.

Achieving a balance between cost-effectiveness and service quality when hiring a private investigator in the UK can be challenging. It is essential to ensure that the services you pay for match the quality of results you expect. While it may be tempting to hire an investigator with lower rates, this decision could lead to subpar findings or non-compliance with privacy laws.


The decision to hire a private investigator in the UK requires careful thought and thorough research. To ensure you make an informed choice, consider the following:

  1. Research potential investigators: Look for recommendations from trusted sources and review past case studies to understand how they have handled similar situations. You can also gain valuable insights from the private investigator blog of NPI, where their team of expert private detectives in the UK share useful articles and tips.
  2. Evaluate cost proposals: Don’t just focus on the numbers; consider the range and quality of services offered. Use NPI’s case studies as a reference point for service expectations.
  3. Balance cost and expertise: While it’s important to find affordable options, don’t compromise on the investigator’s reputation and experience. These factors can greatly impact your case’s outcome.

By following these guidelines, individuals seeking a private investigator in the UK can increase their chances of finding someone who is both cost-effective and capable of delivering reliable results.

Contact National Private Investigators

Get in contact for a FREE no obligation, confidential consultation with a former Army Reconnaissance Intelligence operative.

Our Services

More To Read

Private Detective London

Do you need to find someone?

We often get asked. “Hi, I need to find someone can you help me?”. The answer of course, is always yes we can!If you are a landlord and a previous tenant has ran off owing you rent. We can find them.If you’re looking for a long-lost family member or friend. We can find them. If you’re looking for help with your family tree we can find

Read More
How Do Private Investigators Do Background Checks

How Do Private Investigators Do Background Checks

Delving into how private investigators conduct background checks is like stepping behind the curtain of a mystery theatre. It’s complex, but fascinating. This piece will guide you through the shadows, shining a light on methods used by UK private detectives to ensure safety in workplaces and personal lives alike. We’ll explore everything from verifying employment history for making smart hiring decisions to using digital footprints for comprehensive

Read More
Scroll to Top