List of Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator


This article provides a list of tips for hiring a private investigator. Review this list before making a hiring decision to ensure you’re prepared.

Need Help Hiring a Private Investigator?

Do you need to hire a private investigator to track down a long-lost love or missing relative? Do you need a private detective to conduct surveillance on your cheating spouse? A good detective can help with these services and more.

However, all detectives are not the same. Doing some due diligence before you make a hiring decision can pay off in the long run. It is important to check resumes, visit company websites, call references, and verify licensing credentials before you enter into an agreement or contract. Following are some suggestions to help guide your decision:

Verify Licensing Credentials

Hire a licensed private investigator. Most states require investigators to be fully licensed.  Check with the state licensing agency to verify an investigative license. Links to most state private detective licensing agencies are listed on the corresponding state page in our directory.

Ask to see a physical copy of their license. Verify that the appropriate state agency issued the license, check the expiration date, and verify the name.

Check with the appropriate state’s private investigator associations to verify any memberships they claim and obtain feedback and recommendations. Associations and professional agencies can be great resources for checking out reputations.

Check for Insurance

Find out whether the private eye is properly insured (i.e., liability insurance, bonded, etc.). During their work, the investigator may become injured or damage someone else’s property. You could be indirectly liable for damages. Ensure they have the appropriate type of insurance for the work you request.

Check References

Ask for references. Call and speak directly with the references to obtain information on the detective’s performance, reputation, ethical standards, ease of doing business, results achieved or outcome of the case, etc.

Ask for a Resume or Dossier

Ask the individual you are considering hiring to provide a resume or personal dossier. Evaluate their work history for relevant experience for your situation. Look for applicable experience in the military, law enforcement, government organizations, crime scene specialists, etc. Check for relevant education, such as criminal justice, criminology, and forensic science degrees. Also, look for special training and continuing education credentials.

In addition, ask the person or agency you are considering hiring to provide examples of their work. For example, ask them to provide sample client reports, newspaper articles, success stories, etc.).

Discuss and Agree Upon Pricing and Fees

You must clearly understand the cost of hiring a private investigator. Agree on pricing upfront before hiring a private investigator. Discuss requirements for a retainer, hourly fees, flat fees, expense reimbursement, etc. If you know anyone who has hired a detective in the past, ask them what a fair price would be.

Discuss and agree upon the services you wish the private eye to provide and the results you expect. If both parties clearly understand the expectations, it is easier to gauge performance and increases the likelihood that both parties will be satisfied with the results. In addition, having a signed contract is always a good idea.

Also, it is important to note that some professionals will charge a “no-hit fee” for searching, even if they don’t find the person you’re looking for. This is standard practice, as they are still performing the work.

For more information, please read our article, Cost to Hire a Private Investigator.

Discuss How the Investigation will be conducted

Discuss the information sources, techniques, and methods the private eye might use. Also, decide when you’ll need updates and how the detective will keep you informed. Be aware of any unethical or unbelievable claims. Not all private eyes will reveal their methods, but try to avoid doing business with those who openly suggest breaking the law.

Visit their Agency (and Personal) Website and Social Media Accounts

Next on the list of tips for hiring a private investigator is a reminder to check out the investigator’s social media presence. This is a step that most people tend to skip, but one that could provide some of the best insight into the character of the investigator or agency.

Check their website. Do they have one?  If so, is it a quality site with good information? We recommend checking out their website before making a phone call. Use our Private Investigator Directory to find links to the website. If the website doesn’t exist, or the link to the website is dead, they may be out of business.

Visit their social media profiles. Browse their posts to see what they are talking about or commenting on. Are they sharing helpful information? Do they appear to be an expert in their field? Are they engaging in online arguments, using profanity, etc.?

Check with the Better Business Bureau to view the company’s ratings and resolved/unresolved complaints. In addition to checking the BBB before hiring a company, you can use the site to file a complaint, leave a review, and report scams. This will help others who need advice for hiring a private investigator. Visit the Better Business Bureau website.

Other Advice

  • Before you hire a private investigator, meet them in person if you can, preferably at their place of business, agency office, etc.  Many detectives don’t have an official office and don’t necessarily need one to get results.  But if they do, visiting their office will help you gain comfort in their legitimacy and perhaps the quality of their business operation.
  • Don’t do business with jerks. If you don’t like a particular detective or agency, don’t do business with them for whatever reason. Doing business with someone you don’t like is never a good idea. Do some investigating of your own and check out the person’s business and personal websites, Twitter and Facebook feed, and comments they may have posted on various websites. This will give you a feel for the type of person they are. Good people make good business partners.

Follow these simple guidelines to ensure that you hire a private investigator or detective agency that provides quality service. Once you’re ready to hire a private investigator, visit our P.I. Directory to find a list of professionals in your area.

Questions and Comments

Please comment below if you have any questions about this List of Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at


  1. Well, thank you for such amazing post I really feel good after read this. Keep post always like this. Actually, I was needed a private investigator for one of my issue where I felt very bad because I could not found any help. Then I got ICFECI through my friend who suggest me this and it was very useful for me in solving my case easily.

  2. I met someone at a family reunion years ago but they have not appeared at another one, so I am looking into hiring a private investigator to see if they are still findable. When conducting my search, I will be sure that the detective whose services I hire will be insured as to lower the potential for lower quality work. Thanks to your article, I have some points of reference to utilize which I will for sure use to pinpoint which detective is right for me.

  3. One of the most important things to keep in mind when looking for a private investigator is to look them up via references from previous clients who have used the same service. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s important to ask for pricing and their upfront fees before hiring them for their services since it’s important to make sure you know where your money’s going. If I had the chance to get a private investigator then I would definitely look for their credentials to make sure that they’re qualified to practice in their field of work.

  4. Thank you for pointing out that when talking to a private investigator about the case, we should look for unethical claims. My husband and I have been needing someone to help us do research on a legal investigation but we weren’t sure how to hire someone that we knew could help us the most. Thank you for this article on tips for hiring private investigators, we’ll keep it in mind.

  5. I like your tip to check whether or not they have a site and how high-quality it is. We need to get a private investigator, and I need to make sure they only do high-quality work so that we can get the best results possible. I’ll check their website and see how well put together their website is along with the information on the site. That would help us know a little bit about the kind of care they put into everything they do.

  6. This is very helpful information for me, as sometimes I wonder what if private investigator seems serious about providing a service but doesn’t offer guarantee to you then your provided tips will definitely help me to find the best private investigator services. Thank you for sharing with us.

  7. Before conducting a private investigation, first, you need to make sure what will be the grounds and for what reason. you can never tell if the investigation will going to bring you a positive result or not. You might want to check the credibility of the investigator and if they how many cases they handled or if they already handle the same case that you are inquiring to them,

  8. Before you call me, please do the following:
    1. Have a budget in mind that you can afford to spend. All investigations are based on the number of hours. As an example, 4 hours x 80.00 per hour = $320.00. I suggest you have a budget of at least $1000.00.
    1. Write down all of your questions. Have them in front of you when you call me.
    2. Have all documents and information available and in front of you before you call me.
    3. I use a form called a Retainer and Service Agreement. This document is 4 pages long. This form outlines hourly fees such as investigative time, travel time, mileage, report writing, research, and data transfer time such as video and still photographs onto a disc.
    The retainer is what you pay me at the time you hire me. The service agreement outlines exactly what you are hiring me to do. Remember, it’s all based on the number of hours. If I drive from my office to the site of investigation and it takes an hour, that will cost you my hourly fee of $80.00. Once I begin the investigation and it takes an hour, that is $80.00. I charge mileage at the 2018 IRS rate of 0.54.5 cents per mile. If I have to do any research, write a report, or transfer data cost you $80.00 an hour.
    You ask, Why so much? Remember, the cost of being in business is not cheap. First, are state licensing fees, followed by a local city business license, and finally business insurance and a bond. I hope my comments helped you understand how private investigators operate. Call me or email me if you have questions.
    Thank you,
    I am, J Edgar
    John Edgar Lacher, Owner
    J. Edgar Investigation Agency / PI25963

    • does it matter where you, or the person you are looking for live
      when hiring an investigator, does the investigator need to be in the same state that the person you are looking for live in, and if the investigator does not live in the state that the person you are looking for lives in, how can you be sure that they have found the right person

      • In general, you should hire an investigator in the state where the work will be done. In almost all states, private investigators have to be licensed and their license is only valid in that particular state. However, some investigators are licensed in multiple states and can work across state lines.

        Making sure they find the right person is dependent upon many factors such as the amount/type of identifying information you can provide about the individual, last known whereabouts, associated persons, etc.

  9. Hiring a personal investigator sounds like a great idea. It makes sense that it’s best to meet them in person before you hire them. It’d make me more comfortable, at least. I fear my wife is cheating on me, so I’m thinking about this.

  10. I think meeting them in person is very important before you consider hiring an investigator. You want to know that they can comfort you with their abilities and experience that they’ll be able to find out what you need to know. By meeting them in person I think you’ll be able to better understand their methods and they will be able to get a clear understanding of what you want to find out.

  11. I have never had to hire a P.I. before, but I have always wondered the best one to hire. I agree that you should always meet with any business person at their office. I didn’t know that you had to make sure that they are insured. Thank you for the information.

  12. I was wondering if I could hire someone for free who could checkup on my boyfriend who lives in Salamanca. He’s been acting differently and I want to know why.

  13. I wonder if i could hire a P.I. for free to do confidential file checking on a pervert that was just recently released from an institution


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.