In recent years, interest in background checking services has soared. It is now the rule rather than the exception for the average person to have a good understanding of how powerful data can be. And data is seen as something anyone can use, not just big tech companies. Background checking companies have seen this as an opportunity, and stepped in to provide people with an easy way to access the huge range of public data that is available.
If there’s something that you want or need to know about an individual, you no longer have to rely on your suspicions and instincts alone to make decisions about them. You can investigate your odd neighbor’s potentially violent history, gain insight into what intentions that flirtatious coworker may really have, and make sure that your daughter’s prom date doesn’t have a reputation for petty crime. You can even see what information is available about yourself!
But, surely this level of intel doesn’t come cheap, right?
In fact, running an online background check is surprisingly affordable, considering the sheer amount of data sorted through to produce the results. What might take tens, hundreds or even thousands of hours to uncover by hand, rooting through endless public archives on your own, takes mere minutes (and just a few dollars) to achieve with today’s technology.
“But hold on, if this data is freely available to the public, why should I pay anything at all?” you may ask. Today, we’re going to delve into the hidden costs of running a background search. With that in mind, we’ll then look at how the top-tier background checking sites have overcome logistics to provide incredible value for money. Read on to uncover the answers to the question, “how much does a background check actually cost?”
What Is a Background Check?
Before we delve into prices, it is important establish some definitions. A background check is a research service which scours through publicly available data to identify any relevant information about a particular individual. There is a staggering amount of personal data about US citizens held in the public domain, and everyone has the right to access that massive body of information. But trying to do so manually can be a difficult and time-consuming task.
A background checking site is an automated service which employs the latest online research technology in order to scour huge quantities of data. They can deliver accurate and compelling portraits of a subject based on just a minimal amount of information provided by the user. These reports usually take just a few minutes to generate, but if you’re looking for a even more detail, there is usually an option to extend the process for a few more days to dig even deeper.
By running a background check, you can find out about a person’s employment, education, and financial background, whether they have a criminal record, their complete contact details, and much more. In the information age, ready access to accurately distilled knowledge is true power!
Why Can’t I Run a Background Check for Free?
Actually, you can. A quick Google search will show up several sites which purport to offer in-depth background checks, completely free of charge. We recommend that you approach such sites with caution. After all, few things in life are truly free.
Background checking companies must hire personnel to develop, maintain, and upgrade the automated research software. What’s more, they must pay archival access fees to retrieve much of the data they’ll be using to compile your report. Some companies even offer the option to send a runner to courthouses and other repositories to examine files that haven’t been digitized, incurring even further expense to the who process.
If your eyebrow raised at the term “access fee” earlier, then you’ve probably never tried to access something like a court record yourself. While this type of information is freely available to the public, it still costs money to access. That’s because, just like background checking companies, these archives have their own staff and systems to maintain.
What about “Free” Background Checking Sites?
In short, you should always steer clear of background checking sites which proclaim to offer their services completely free of charge. The costs of conducting research are unavoidable, so these sites have got to recoup their expenses in other ways. It could be as simple as rendering results no better than a Google search, while bombarding you with advertisements along the way. Such services cannot be relied upon to yield accurate results, which can be a dangerous gamble to take depending on the nature of the check you’re running.
Even worse are the sites which harbor hackers, waiting to exploit your naïveté. They may simply be looking to harvest your data, only to sell it off for profit. Or, they could install malware onto your device on the sly, opening the door to an plethora of criminal activity at your expense.
Whatever your motivations may be, a free site is not going to serve you in any meaningful way. The few dollars you invest in a top-tier service will not only lend accuracy and depth to your search report, but also bring some peace of mind to your troubled situation.
Why Aren’t Background Checks More Expensive?
As we’ve already mentioned, the amount of data out there is mind boggling. Fine-tuning software to not only parse this veritable mountain of megabytes and manuscripts, but make sense of it all would seem like a feat of engineering. And, truthfully, it absolutely is. So, why don’t reputable background checking sites cost more?
Economy of scale plays perhaps the largest part. In the information age, search technology is big business, and a fertile industry for innovation. The best background checking sites have been around for a while now, and have had time to improve their technology, methods, and business strategies bit by bit. And because these sites are all vying for your money in exchange for access to public data, the competition has grown fierce, thereby driving prices down steadily.
That doesn’t mean you should race to the bottom in terms when hunting for bargain background checks. On the other hand, paying top-dollar may not always yield the best results, either. As with so many things, the best bang for your buck is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Read on for our recommendations!
Most Cost-effective Background Checking Sites
It’s good marketing to claim your product or service is the best on the market, but as we all know, there’s very little room at the top of the pile. How, then, are you supposed to find the right tool to beat information overload, when the background checking industry is chock-full of the same overwhelming range of options?
Reading this guide is a great start to solving that problem! Now that you have some understanding of the economic realities underpinning the background checking industry, you’re ready to take a critical look at the cream of the crop. Below, we make three recommendations for the very best online background checking services. We didn’t just pull our choices out of thin air; we stress-tested them against these strict criteria:
- Thorough Research – A background check is only as good as its research, so it’s important to choose a service which draws its conclusions from a wide and deep variety of data sources.
- Fast Results – Whatever your reason for running a background check, there’s a good chance it’s time sensitive. Opt for a service which can deliver preliminary results almost immediately, and deep search reports in a matter of days.
- Accurate and Comprehensible Reports – It’s one thing for a machine to collect a mass of data, and another thing for a human being to make sense of it all. Your background checking service should distill their findings into comprehensive yet concise final reports.
- Search Customization – Even if you only have a little bit of information about your subject, the best sites should still be able to deliver detailed and accurate results.
- User-friendly Dashboard – The top companies in this industry all offer an online dashboard, where users can manage their searches and results. Interfaces should be design with usability in mind, and feature and intuitive layout.
- Good Customer Support – No process, interface, or report is completely foolproof. If you ever have a question or concern about your search, you’ll want to make sure there’s a solid customer support resource readily available to help you out.
- Flexible Service Packages – Your situation is unique, so do you really want to hire on a one-size-fits-all search solution? We looked for sites which offered both expedient, low-cost background checks as well as premium deep research packages.
Second on our list is TruthFinder, which offers an incredible depth of research at competitive prices. You can tailor the level of service you receive to your needs by choosing between basic ($27.78/month or $23.02/month for three months) and premium (at an additional $17.47/month) search options. With the former, you’ll see results on criminal records, sex offender registers, driving records, personal information, and data about known relatives, while the premium level brings forth your subject’s education history, voter registration records, weapons and other licenses held, and more. There’s even a deep web research service available, which combs through more online data sources than any other provider.
Despite the wealth of information likely to be presented on your final report, you’ll be treated to a nicely laid-out and easy-to-read design. This user-friendliness extends to both TruthFinder’s online dashboard and dedicated Android app, making it a breeze to access your search data on the go. With 24/7 customer support available on a toll-free number, you’ll never be left wondering how something works or what something means.
When you’re searching for a fast, reputable background checking service, it’s hard to do better than Instant CheckMate. True to its name, this provider is known for rendering reliable search results in just a few quick minutes or less. CheckMate’s easy-to-read reports cover everything from criminal records to sex offender registers, marriage and divorce records, details of relatives, address history, social media presence, and much more. Prices are set at a modest $34.78 per month, with a discount on three-month subscriptions at just $27.82 per month.
Like any service worth your attention, Instant CheckMate offers comprehensive 24/7 support, so you’ll always have an answer from a human being when you need one. You’ll love using their slick online dashboard, which compiles all relevant data to your searches, past or present. For users on the go, there is a stellar Android app available in the Google Play Store.
Intelius offers heavy-hitting background checking services at a fraction of the price set by its competitors. Subscriptions start at $14.95 for one month, dropping to $9.98 for three months and $7.48 for six months. Don’t let these rock-bottom prices fool you into believe that Intelius is anything other than a world-class company, however! Your searches will return a trove of valuable information, including a person’s full contact details, address history, criminal records, sex offender register details, financial history, property records, educational history, and much more besides.
What’s more, Intelius has made a special effort to ensure their service is extremely easy to use, even for novices. Access your search data on demand via their attractive online dashboard, or log in with dedicated software for Android or iOS. The final report is a thing of beauty as well, presenting often complex arrays of information in an ordered, logical way. The only mark Intelius fell short of in our testing is the round-the-clock customer service standard to more expensive companies. However, this is largely made up for by their excellent troubleshooter (check their website for details).
It’s hard to give a definitive answer to the question “how much does a background check cost?” After all, your particular use-case for such a service may differ greatly from that of someone else, leading to different depths of research required to dig up satisfying answers. In this article, we’ve gone over the costs involved with a background check, why you should avoid free services, and even presented the three most cost-effective services on the market. Whether you’re looking for an old friend, checking into a neighbor, trying to get in touch with long-lost family members, or something else entirely, you’re sure to stand the best chance to get your money’s worth with our suggestions.
Have you ever run an online background check? How did you find the experience? How much did you pay for the service and did you feel it delivered value for money? We always welcome feedback and comments from our readers to help inform others, so why not share your own experiences with us using the comment box below?
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. NordVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.