“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
When shopping for a private investigator, the first question most people ask is, “What’s your hourly rate?” It’s a reasonable question, but the average person doesn’t understand how much the quality of service – not to mention knowledge and experience – can vary between private investigators. Here are a few tips to help you get the most value for your money when choosing a P.I.
Match expertise and skill set to your needs.
Comparing services isn’t the same as comparing products. Each investigator will have a unique skill set, experience level, and technical investigative approach, which are all key when navigating a case from point A to point B. Throughout every case, decisions made by the investigator will affect the final outcome. And when it comes to something like a criminal defense investigation, the questions a private investigator asks a witness can mean the difference between walking free and spending life in prison.
Do some sleuthing of your own.
Make sure your potential P.I. has a proven track record of success within his or her area of expertise. Whether you’re a criminal defendant, or you’re buying a new business, hiring a key executive, or investigative a loved one, you need an investigator who specializes in your particular type of situation. Certain private investigators are better at handling cases than others – a certified fraud examiner will be better at investigating a fraudulent scheme than a career surveillance specialist.
Ask the questions while you’re in research mode.
Consider asking your potential pick some detailed questions about his or her investigative process and ability to perform the task at hand. Will the investigator you’re interviewing actually conduct your investigation? (Many agencies subcontract work). Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for the investigator’s curriculum vitae so you can do a little more digging about the investigator’s credentials if need be.
Consider the big picture.
Hiring a private investigator is always an investment – one that shouldn’t be judged solely by an hourly rate. Cost is often influence by many other factors. Complexity of the case, investigation objectives, depth of the investigative approach, and techniques that are needed to ethically and thoroughly complete the investigation all affect the bottom line. Much like hiring a prestigious law firm, the overall package – an investigator’s reputation, network, and access to investigative resources – can be a real game changer.