Many people who need to run a criminal background check on themselves or another person may be asking, ‘how much is a background check,’ or ‘how much does a background check cost?’
Knowing how background checks are priced, how they work, and what they report can help, since all background checks are not the same.
Although the price can vary depending on the information delivered and what is required, it’s rare that a single, name-based (level 1) background check will cost more than $40.
Below is a constantly-updated chart showing the current live pricing for each state.
How Much Does a Background Check Cost from an Agency?
The biggest issue with the question “how much does a background check cost?” is that there are many different kinds of background checks. Although some aspects of a background check can be done for free, such as checking sex offender registries and other arrest records, others will require a fee.
The fee associated with background checks all comes down to the agency that is supplying the information. The best example of this is the most common criminal history check.
In general, criminal history information is held by the county where the arrest or criminal activity occurred. For federal crimes, this information is stored by the FBI. Although obtaining criminal history information from the FBI or from the county is a relatively easy and straightforward process, it is not free.
Costs of Criminal History Checks
Most record keeping agencies require processing fees to deliver criminal background check results.
When using a background check agency, these fees are paid by the company, and the searcher pays the agency a membership fee. This membership fee will cover all the expenses associated with obtaining records.
This means that in some cases, such as with individuals who only need one kind of record that can be obtained for free, it can be cheaper to obtain the records themselves, rather than pay an agency to do it for them.
On the other hand, agencies will be able to return tons of information instantly, that can otherwise take hours or even days to obtain should the individual do it themselves.
Moreover, the fee paid to these agencies is often quite low when compared to the many fees required to do a manual criminal check in every state.
Cost Options for Background Checks
Background check agencies will generally offer a membership-style option to pay for a background check report. The cost ranges from $10-$40 per month and generally includes all the information that is publicly available. This will include but is not limited to:
There are a few online background check agencies that offer single searches for a one time fee, this can also be a great option, but be sure to check what is included with a one time search as certain information may not be included in the results.
Free Background Checks
When considering a free volunteer background check, make sure that the resource being used is up-to-date and accurate. Many are not.
Cheapest Background Check Options
The cheapest way to get a background check is to go through an online background check company that offers a free, or heavily discounted trial period. These options provide public records, including often where someone works, as well as their criminal history. Paying full price for a monthly membership is rarely cost effective, especially since many people will only be using the service once or maybe a handful of times.
Although the monthly memberships are extremely cost effective for running lots of checks, they are quite expensive when just running one name-based background check.
The second cheapest option for individuals is the DIY (do-it-yourself) route. The fees associated with obtaining copies of certain records is often quite low. In some cases a processing fee of less than $5 may be all that it takes to acquire these documents. In some cases the fees can even be waived entirely.
However there are two major issues with the DIY route: Time & Cumulative cost.
Time It Takes to DIY Background Check
The DIY route will require a significantly greater time commitment compared to going through a background check agency. When using an agency, the entire process from start to results can be done in as little as 10 minutes and shouldn’t take more than 20.
On the other hand, the amount of time it takes to do a DIY background check can take hours if multiple checks need to be done. Plus, many government agencies mail results, which adds to the length of time involved.
For example, if someone needs to check a person’s criminal history in all 50 states, each state will have to be manually searched.
Cost of DIY Background Checks
Although searching someone’s criminal history in one jurisdiction (like one state) will be less expensive than using an agency to find these public records, if the search involves more that one state, the fees can add up.
Although $4 fees may seem low to garner criminal history reports, they can quickly accumulate. With a background check agency, the flat fee will often cost less and will usually include the information from all states.
Background Check Cost By Type
The range of costs in background checks varies wildly, making it hard to give a specific answer to “How much does a background check cost?”
For example, if the background check needs to include credit history, it’s usually more expensive because it must be completed by a reputable background check agency that is compliant with FCRA regulations. In addition, this sort of check must include a signed consent form from the person being investigated.
The FCRA, or Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that is designed to protect both those performing background checks on others and the person being searched.
There are many different rules and regulations to be determined FCRA compliant. For example, one of the most important rules is that background check agencies are responsible for rectifying incorrect background check information that they report.
There are also rules that govern how the background check information is gathered, who the results are shared with and how they are allowed to gather information.
Also, because the information that is being gathered by these agencies is normally confidential, the background check agency that is performing the check must obtain written consent from the individual being checked. Performing one of these checks on an individual that did not consent, such as by using another person’s social security number, is illegal.
FCRA compliant background check companies are able to perform checks that the general public would otherwise not be able to perform on other people. Special databases are available and these companies have access to more than just the public information that individuals can access.
Below is a list of common background check types and the associated cost with that particular check. Keep in mind that some information is best accessed through a background check company, in which case, prices will vary.
|Background Check Type||Background Check Cost|
|Social Security Number Validation||Free|
|Address History||$50, Or $2-$40 Through a Background Check Company|
|County Criminal History||$5-$20, Depending on the County/State|
|National Criminal History||$18|
|National Sex Offender Registry Search||Free|
|Motor Vehicle Records||$2-$20|
Here are a few notes to consider when pricing background checks.
- Social Security Number Verification: Although E-verify is free, there are certain restrictions which prevent gaining access to a social security number. Knowing what shows up on a social security background check can help eliminate issues before they start.
- Address History: When paying for an address history search (who lives here), make sure that the search is finding the current and past addresses.
- County Criminal History Search: Local jurisdictions will often search records for free, but if a report is required, there will be a charge to get the report of criminal records.
- National and State Sex Offender Registries: These services are free to use, and can quickly search the databases.
- Motor Vehicles Report (MVR Report): The cost of a driving background check will vary, depending on the state.
How Much Is a Background Check by State
Background check costs can also be completed by the state, often through the state’s department of justice or through the State Police Department.
Specific steps are provided by the agency in charge of the background check.
|Background Check Cost Per State||Background Check Price|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Alabama||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Alaska||$20.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Arizona||$65.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Arkansas||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in California||$32.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Colorado||$13.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Connecticut||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Delaware||$52.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Florida||$24.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Georgia||$27.75|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Hawaii||$5.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Idaho||$20.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Illinois||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Indiana||$7.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Iowa||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Kansas||$20.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Kentucky||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Louisiana||$26.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Maine||$31.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Maryland||$18.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Massachusetts||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Michigan||$10.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Minnesota||$10.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Mississippi||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Missouri||$14.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Montana||$10.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Nebraska||$12.50|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Nevada||$11.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in New Hampshire||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in New Jersey||$44.13|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in New Mexico||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in New York||$95.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in North Carolina||$14.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in North Dakota||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Ohio||$22.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Oklahoma||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Oregon||$10.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Pennsylvania||$22.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Rhode Island||$5.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in South Carolina||$25.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in South Dakota||$24.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Tennessee||$29.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Texas||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Utah||$15.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Vermont||$30.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Virginia||$27.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Washington||$19.95|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in West Virginia||$37.25|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Wisconsin||$7.00|
|How Much Does a Background Check Cost in Wyoming||$29.00|
Keep in mind this does not include 7 day free trial background checks that can be used to run multiple reports for less than a cup of coffee (a small refundable fee is almost always required).
Explaining Background Check Prices
When asking how much does a background check cost, many people are surprised by how much the cost can vary. The different prices can be a little bit confusing and the biggest reason for this is because there is not simply one place where all background check information can be obtained.
Since there are so many different kinds of background checks that are performed for tons of different reasons, both individuals and background check agencies must check many different sources to find and verify this information.
One of the best examples of this is criminal history information. When searching someone’s criminal history information there are at least three places that will need to be checked in order to run a complete criminal background check agency:
- Local Records
- State Records
- Federal Records
Federal Records Check
Starting with federal records, obtaining criminal history information requires contacting the agency in charge of these records, the FBI. The FBI will often have to perform the search themselves, compile all the information found on the individual and then return it to the requester.
However, this is not as simple as typing a name into an FBI database, oftentimes it will require the fingerprints of the person being searched. So, the individual must get fingerprinted by an FBI approved fingerprinting service, then the results must be sent to the FBI where they will be added to the FBI fingerprint database, before the results are then run through the criminal database.
All these small details add up in a big way, resulting in the $18 fee required to obtain an Identity History Summary Check from the FBI.
State Records Check
State records will often encounter many of the same issues as the FBI. Fingerprints may be required to obtain the results. Furthermore, not every state will have a comprehensive database.
Many states rely on databases and records that are kept by the counties. So when searching state criminal records, some information may be missing even though the crime occurred in the state. This is because some counties may only have physical records and do not have an online database that can be searched. This results in individuals and agencies being forced to manually search local records.
Local Jurisdiction Records Check
Local records tend to have slightly different obstacles compared to state and FBI record keeping. As mentioned, many states rely on physical records, especially for old records that have never been digitized.
This means that when an agency or individual requests certain criminal records those records must be searched and obtained by hand, by an employee who works where the records are kept.
All of these little things can add up quickly and keep in mind, this is just for criminal history information. Virtually every kind of background check information that can be requested will have to through similar obstacles with multiple government agencies getting involved to locate specific records.
Other Records Searches
There is also the issue that some records simply don’t have a single location. Address history is a great example of this. There is no government agency in charge of tracking the movements of individuals throughout their lives. Address history can be obtained through the IRS in some cases, but requires a hefty fee, due to the fact that lots of tax return information is redacted to maintain privacy.
Credit card companies may also have this information, but individuals who have only recently obtained a credit card will only have a recent address on record.
The main reason that background checks cost as much as they do is because it truly is an investigation into the person that requires looking in tons of different places to find the information needed.
Understanding the cost and fees associated with a comprehensive background check can be confusing. When determining how much is a background check and how much does a background check cost, it’s important to know what information is needed to avoid paying more than necessary.