How Much Does a Background Check Cost?

Some people see background checks as an extra step they don’t need.

However, background checks are an essential part of any hiring or renting process that brings a sense of safety and security.

But how much does a background check cost?

The answer depends on different things. 

And in this blog post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about a background check, its importance, the different kinds of checking, and the factors that affect its cost.

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What is a Background Check?

A background check involves looking into a person’s criminal, financial, and employment records.

Employers or businesses go through this process to check a potential employee’s or tenant’s identity and determine whether it is safe for them to make a hiring or rental decision.

Background checks help verify a person’s identity with information like Social Security numbers (SSNs), driver’s license numbers, and financial and public records.

They are intended to create a safe and profitable environment: whether you are hiring for your company, lending someone money, or screening a potential tenant for your apartment.

The process of a background check depends on the details you need. The information you get can range from basic to extensive.

Importance of Background Checks

Determine the possible criminal history

Background checks help employers uncover any criminal records associated with the applicant or tenant.

It helps them make an informed decision and allows you to protect your company or assets from potential problems.

Verify qualifications, education, and experience

For employers, background checks verify a person’s educational qualifications, work experience, and certifications.

It allows you to identify qualified job candidates and select the best one for the job.

For tenants, it provides them with peace of mind that the renters they choose are reliable and trustworthy.

Provide a sense of trust and security

Background checks assure employers, property owners, and lenders that the person they hire, rent, and give money to is trustworthy.

It helps them create a place where everyone can feel safe, secure, and respected. It also contributes to better employee productivity and tenant peace of mind.

Legal compliance

Background checks are a vital part of the hiring process that you should do carefully and accurately.

It ensures compliance with federal, state, and local laws. It also helps employers prevent any potential discrimination based on background information.

Types of Background Checks

County, State, and Federal Criminal Background Checks

County background check ($8-$16)

County criminal background checks provide the most accurate and recent information. County records are some of the most reliable sources for finding criminal records for felony and misdemeanor cases.

This background check usually won’t bring up non-criminal records, such as traffic citations or dismissed offenses. The appearance of such records relies on state and federal reporting limitations.

State background check ($9-$15)

State background checks contain records of crimes that include arson, murder, robbery, and theft. State crimes might not be as severe as federal offenses and come with much lighter penalties.

Remember that only some counties send data to state databases, and each database has different regulations. If you want the recent information available, requesting a county-level background check is best.

Federal background check ($8-15)

A federal criminal background check searches 94 databases belonging to United States district and appellate courts.

It includes severe crimes like illegal gun possession, drug distribution, arson, kidnapping, tax evasion, embezzlement, and counterfeiting.

Federal crimes are prosecuted in United States district courts, which act as trial courts. Those convicted of a federal crime may appeal their case to United States courts of appeals or appellate courts.

Credit background checks ($5-10)

Credit checks show an individual’s credit-to-debt ratio and any past bankruptcies, which gives an idea of how the person manages his finances and bill payments.

It lets you know if someone is financially responsible or not and if he’s having money troubles.

Although financial institutions more typically use credit reports to evaluate credit applications, employers may also use them depending on the industry or role they are looking to fill.

For instance, companies dealing primarily with finances will do a credit background check for all applicants.

Employment background checks ($8-$20)

A background check of potential employees includes cross-checking the personal, educational, financial, and criminal records as provided by resume details to ensure they are suited for the job. 

Incorporating background screening into the hiring process helps employers avoid legal liabilities and make better-informed decisions about who to hire.

Identity background checks ($2-$5)

An identity check confirms the name, date of birth, and social security information and uncovers aliases and address records. It becomes mandatory when you have to verify the identities of many users at once. 

For example, employers may need to verify job candidates’ identities, schools must confirm students before they can log in for exams, and businesses might want to ensure secure transactions by verifying customers’ identities.

Identity checks are key to uncovering buried criminal data and cross-referencing records. Although identity checks don’t include financial or criminal data, they provide the initial insights necessary for a comprehensive screening solution.

Drug testing ($25-$55)

Although it isn’t federally required, many employers do drug testing as a background check, especially for safety-sensitive positions.

Whether or not you have to take an employment drug test mostly depends on the industry and role you’re applying for.

Urine testing is one of the most efficient screening methods as it can detect drug use from the previous 1-3 days.

It is commonly used to screen for: cocaine, ecstasy amphetamines, barbiturates, marijuana, opiates, benzodiazepines, methadone, and oxycodone.

Rental history ($4-$10)

Lands and property management companies use a rental background check to evaluate potential tenants. It includes reviewing the applicant’s credit, rental, eviction, and criminal history.

A rental background check helps choose the best tenant for your property. This checking shows details like personal information, address, income, credit score, employment history, tradelines, and public records of eviction notices.

Before running a rental background check, you need the applicant’s personal information and social security number. The report will provide insight into whether they would make a good renter.

Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) ($3-$8)

An MVR contains a person’s driving history information. It includes license expiration and status, class type, endorsements and restrictions, traffic violations and accidents, vehicular crimes, and unpaid parking tickets.

The MVR is required for businesses that must follow the Department of Transportation regulations. Like a background check, an MVR check ensures that you hire safe and reliable employees.

What Affects the Price of a Background Check?

Type of search

The type of background check you choose will affect the overall cost. If you only need criminal records, it will be cheaper than if you also need financial documents and employment history.

Some providers offer customized packages that include different searches and can be more expensive than buying individual services.

Search depth

The deeper the search, the pricier the background check. Searching all databases will be more thorough than just one source but can take more time and money.  

Searching all databases will be more thorough than just one source but can take more time and money.

For example, if you search criminal history in only one county instead of all the counties where a candidate has lived during the last x number of years.

Hit rate

The hit rate is the percentage of reports containing an item that could be negative.

This matters for companies running background checks, as a higher hit rate requires more accuracy and compliance to complete the check correctly.

Labor required

Background check service providers also consider the amount of work and effort they need to give to review and compile the report.

The more data a report contains, and the more accurate it is, the longer it will take to complete.

Access fees

Counties and states may charge access fees for criminal records, including the costs of using third-party “court runners” to get this information.

The fees can be expensive in some states, but most are either single-digit or nonexistent. Many background check companies will add these fees to reports.

Terms of contract

When reviewing a background check provider, be sure that you will be allowed to use them sparingly.

Exclusivity and minimum spending provisions should not give your background check vendor to charge a reason to charge you higher fees.

Set up fees

Background check service providers charge a set-up fee for new clients.

They use it to cover credentialing costs, which confirms that your company has the proper legal permission to run a background check.

Usually, they waive the fees for companies that spend $5,000 annually. For other organizations who pay less than that, their set up fee is $250-$1,000.

Can Someone Run a Background Check Without My Permission?

Although the legalities of background check permissions may not always be defined, it is best to get a candidate’s consent before running a background check.

Depending on the type of check, state and local laws, and the situation, running a background check without consent might not be illegal.

But it’s always best to get permission before proceeding with the background checks.

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Although a background check usually takes only one to three business days, it could take up to two weeks if more in-depth searches are necessary.

Depending on the kind of check and how many people need to be contacted, some checks will take more time than others.

Additionally, if there are legal requirements that must be met to conduct the background check, that can also add extra time to the process.

What’s the Difference Between a Free and Paid Background Check?

You can use free background check services to access criminal and arrest records, birth certificates, education and employment history, professional licenses, and court data.

These pieces of information are not strictly confidential, so that anyone can access them.

If you want to do a free background check, the internet is a great tool. Running a simple Google search can give insight into someone’s life, but it’s less reliable than a full background check.

Paid Background check services will give you more information about the person. They cover direct criminal records checks in county courthouses.

When you avail of a paid service, you’re paying for the data and the company’s expertise. They know how to get information and share it in a way you can understand.


By conducting background checks, employers, landlords, and financial institutions can protect their resources and investments and ensure that the people they hire or rent are safe and trustworthy. 

Background checks provide an extra layer of security for those involved in the hiring or tenant selection process and can give a sense of security and trust.

With appropriate background checks, employers and landlords can reduce their liability and confidently make decisions.

bryan rucker
Written by Brian Williams

Brian is an expert in security, privacy, and information. He has studied background checks, criminal, people search, and such topics over the last 5 years. He is also an avid writer and enjoys sharing his knowledge through this blog. Read more of Brian's articles.