If there is one question we are asked more than any other, it is whether background checks are expensive. In this article, we will explain how much you need to pay to get a good background check, and also recommend the top two sites that offer the best value for money.
Background checks are almost always carried out for important reasons. It could be over concerns over the safety of your children or family, in search for a family member, or checking the suitability of a potential employee or tenant.
No-one wants to cut corners on important issues like these but at the same time, they also don’t want to blow a chunk of money on a check that might not return any useful information. However, everyone has a budget, and it is a fact of life that some are bigger than others. This is why the number one question we get asked about is how much background checking services cost.
In this article, we are going explain how much it will cost to run a good background check and where this money goes; we will explain why free background checks are simply not worth the risk; and we will recommend the background checking sites we feel offer the best value for money.
What is a background check?
So what exactly is a background check? For the purposes of this article, when we talk about a background checking site, we are referring to a site that can pull together a comprehensive picture of an individual from publicly available information gathered from dozens of different sources. They will include things like:
- Criminal records (state, county, and city)
- Credit history
- Employment history
- Work authorization
- Education history (high school and college)
- Social media profiles
- Driving record
- Licenses held
Different sites use different source but while no two sites will return exactly the same information, most good ones will dig out much of the same data.
This is important because people decide to run background checks for all sorts of different reasons, such as:
- Employment checks – employees often like to run a background check as part of their hiring process to ensure that a candidate is fit for the job.
- Criminal checks – background checks are an easy way to discover whether someone has a criminal record.
- Finding a lost family member or friend – if you have lost contact with a friend or relative, a good way to track them down is to run a background check on them.
- Finding information about someone – if you want to know more about a neighbor or work colleague, a background check is a good way to seek out more.
- Checking for local sex offenders – if you are worried about possible sex offenders living in your street or area, a background check can help to unmask them.
- Checking records about yourself – if you want to know what records about yourself are publicly available, a background check can tell you.
Whatever your reason for running a background check, you will want information that is accurate, comprehensive, and insightful. A reputable background checking site will provide just that.
Unfortunately, sites like these do come at a price, and there are plenty of charlatans on the market too. This means you need to be careful, and only give your money to sites which are reputable. We also recommend that you avoid free background checking sites as well, many fail entirely to serve results to your query and may even harvest your search data for nefarious means.
Why do background checking site charge at all?
A lot of people write in to ask us why background checking sites charge a fee at all. It’s a fair question. After all, they are generally providing information that is already in the public domain and all the site does is collate this into a single report.
The truth is that a good background checking site does a lot more than that. When data is publicly available, it is often stored in huge databases containing millions of different records. The technology needed to sift through these files and return accurate results is advanced and, inevitably, not cheap to create and operate.
But a good background site will also go further. They will research information that is not readily accessible. Education records, for example, often require a site to physically make a request to a college and then input the information. Some criminal records actually need a runner to visit the courthouse in person and sift through hard-copy files.
All of this takes time and resources. Background checking sites are not charities. If they incur costs when operating their service, they have to charge their users to cover these. They are also profit-making companies and need to make money if they want to stay in business.
What is the most cost-effective background checking site?
The key to getting a good background check is not to look for the cheapest but for the one which offers the best value for money. That is what we focused on during our recent tests of all the top background checking sites. After exhaustive research, we’ve determined the most-cost effective sites to be:
Instant CheckMate is another background checking site that offers great value for money. Their prices begin at $34.78 per month, and with a discount, a three-month subscription is just $27.82 per month. Their big selling point is speed. No site could turn round a check faster in our tests so if you need instant information, it is worth paying a little more.
Speed does not come with compromises elsewhere in the service. Instant CheckMate was both reliable and detailed in its searches and in none of our tests did they miss out any significant information. With good customer support, nicely designed apps, and easy-to-read reports, there is not a lot to fault in their all-round service.
TruthFinder uses a two-tier pricing structure with prices starting at $27.78 for one month or $23.02 for two months. At the lower tier, we felt they offered a little more information which is really useful for those with a tight budget.
All of their reports were impressive being nicely laid-out and packed full of detail. Crucially, TruthFinder was also unerringly accurate in the data it unearthed too. Speeds were a little more varied though, depending on the nature of the search.
They offer a superb and responsive 24/7 customer support on a toll-free number which is really helpful, especially for new users. It adds to the sense that their users really matter to them.
Can I use a free background checking site?
If you search for free background check in Google, you will get dozens of results, most of which will claim to offer a similar service to paid-for sites without the expense.
As we explained above, there are costs involved in running accurate background checks and if these aren’t being passed onto users, there are two possible reasons.
The first is that they are not conducting their checks as thoroughly as the paid-for sites. In our tests, free background checking sites will often only check a handful of easily accessible public data sources. They will certainly not find any of the information that requires manual research.
If a search is challenging because, for example, the subject has a common name, free background checking sites will also often return inaccurate information. Wrong results can cause you all sorts of problems. You might end up accusing an innocent person of being a sex offender or you could travel half-way across the country to meet a long-lost relative who actually has no connection to your family.
The second reason could be that they are covering their costs in another way. Often, this will be through selling the data they compile about your subjects, and yourself as a user, to third-parties. This is not only a significant breach of your privacy but it could also lead to you being contacted by all sorts of strange people trying to sell you stuff you don’t need.
In the case of a lot of free background checking sites, we found that both practices were the norm.
Free sites have poor accuracy reports, miss out on a lot of data, and can often sell your information on. There might be no cost involved but if you need to run a background check, you want the information to be right. And for that to be the case, you have to incur a small cost.
If you want to run a background check that generates accurate and detailed results fast, you do need to pay. But most premium background checking sites charge a modest fee for an unlimited number of checks over an agreed time period. It is quite possible to get a great background check carried out at an inexpensive price.
There are a number of background checking sites that offer terrific value for money and in this article, we have identified the best two sites. Free background checking sites do exist but, as we have explained, they are really not worth the effort.
What is your experience of running background checks? Have you found any other sites which offer good value for money? Do you have any additional tips for our readers? 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?