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How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Private Investigator in Canada?

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When you’re thinking about hiring a private investigator in Canada, there are a few things you need to ask each agency before choosing a company and an agent. The first question should be regarding their experience level and reputation in the industry. The other question should be focused on their type of services and their rates. Unlike other professions, there is no industry standard when it comes to fees for hiring a private investigator in Canada, so it’s important to understand how each agency sets its rates. 

You can use the information in this article to find out what you need to ask to help you make the best decision when hiring a PI.  

How Rates Are Set

Rates set by private investigators are based on several factors, including the level of experience and the time it will take to complete the job. This means that fees can vary depending on your location, the agency you use, the type of services you need and the complexity of the work. With that said, most private investigators charge by the hour. You might see a base fee for database searches and background checks, but for surveillance work or locating a missing person, an hourly range will be the norm. 

Typical Fees

There are no industry-specific guidelines for private investigators in Canada. So it’s important to find out exactly what you are paying for. Here are some other costs to hire a private investigator in Canada:

1. Retainers

Don’t forget to inquire if the PI uses a retainer agreement as part of their fee structure. If so, you will want to know what type of retainer they want you to agree to. If it’s a consumable retainer you would need to pay a fee upfront, which would then be put towards any hours completed on the job. A non-consumable retainer fee, on the other hand, would be paid in advance and any hours worked would be added on top of this fee amount.   

2. Expenses

You also want to know if you’re responsible for their expenses such as travel time, hotel fees, or other administration costs. If these fees are not included in the original quote, you should ask for a range, if there is a cap, and when they are billed to you. If you forget to inquire about expenses you could be caught off guard if and when you receive these extra charges. 

At The Smith Investigation Agency, we are always upfront with our customers about our fees during the consultation. Contact us today to set up a consultation to discuss your project.

About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Founder of The Smith Investigation Agency in 2014, Whitney Joy Smith’s extensive background as a private investigator is matched only by her passion for the role. A graduate of several respected institutions, including Northwest Florida State College and George Brown College, her early years in life were spent between Canada and the United States. This education, along with her formative years as a private investigator in various agencies, informed much of her knowledge of private investigative laws, regulations, and operating standards in both countries.


The recipient of numerous industry awards and accolades, including the Consumers Choice Award, Best in Ottawa, and many others, Whitney takes pride in working closely with her ever-growing agency to raise the bar, maintain compliance, and meet the investigative needs of clients. Whitney is active in various membership and supporting roles, including the CPIRC, CBN, CAPI, Canadian Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and many others. Her experience-driven, thought-provoking articles have been featured in everything from Readers Digest to Business News Daily, and she strives to continually redefine standards for those in the private investigative and security fields. Learn more about Whitney and the team at The Smith Investigation Agency today.