How Much Does a Lie Detector Test Cost?

Last Updated on July 4, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Lie detector tests, also referred to as polygraph examinations, are occasionally utilized in criminal investigations, for pre-employment screening, and in personal situations in an attempt to determine truthfulness regarding specific incidents. But what is the full range of costs for a professional polygraph test? Carefully understanding the myriad elements impacting polygraph pricing allows for accurately budgeting and setting expectations if considering this controversial but intriguing verification approach for limited applications.

While the overall reliability and scientific validity of polygraph tests remains debated, certain individuals, professionals, and legal entities may perceive potential benefits from their selective use under tightly controlled conditions for specific needs.

But results should always be considered with noted limitations in mind. This comprehensive guide examines typical polygraph test cost ranges segmented by purpose, a detailed fee structure breakdown, tips for maximizing value, essential considerations when vetting and choosing a properly qualified examiner, and how to objectively weigh the costs versus perceived benefits if evaluating a polygraph examination for a particular lawful situation.

How Much Does a Lie Detector Test Cost?

The cost for a lie detector test ranges from $500 to $2,000+ on average depending on your geographic location, the examiner’s credentials, equipment utilized, test complexity and customization, intended purpose, amount of time involved, and various other factors.

Pre-Employment Screening Polygraph Price Range

  • $400 to $1,000+ per test

Legal or Criminal Investigative Polygraph Price Range

  • $800 to $2,500+ per test

Personal Issue or Relationship Polygraph Price Range

  • $500 to $1,500+ per test

In most cases, more complex legal/investigative polygraph tests requiring extensive preparation work, precise customized question formulation, long administration, rigorous chart analysis, and comprehensive examiner reporting command the highest professional fees on average.

According to American Polygraph Association, the average cost of a lie detector test in the US ranges from $200 to $500. They note that the price can vary depending on the location, the experience of the examiner, and whether the test is conducted for a private individual or for a law enforcement or government agency. The American Polygraph Association also mentions that some examiners may offer discounts for multiple tests or for law enforcement personnel.

Lie Detector Test USA reports that the typical cost of a lie detector test in the US is between $300 and $600. Lie Detector Test USA also advises that some examiners may offer package deals or discounts for multiple tests.

Thepolygraphexaminer.com states that their cost of a lie detector test in the US ranges from $900 to $1,500+, with an average of $1,250. They note that the price can vary depending on the location, the examiner’s credentials, and the specific purpose of the test (e.g., pre-employment screening, criminal investigation, or personal use).

Shouse Law Group reports that the typical cost of a lie detector test in the US is between $200 and $2,000 for a whole day test, while a 2 hour test is generally $200-$800.

Factors That Influence Polygraph Test Cost

Major elements impacting pricing include:

  • Polygraph examiner qualifications, reputation, demand level, and years of specialized experience in the field
  • Local area costs of living and general competitive marketplace rates
  • Level of test complexity, amount of customization, and inclusion of multi-issue questions vs a short single topic test
  • Total time involved including preparation, pre-test consultation, multiple test rounds if necessary, analysis, and reporting
  • Location and travel time/mileage expenses if required to access the polygraph testing facility
  • Private sector client needs vs standardized public agency testing
  • Use of computerized polygraph equipment, cameras, and other tools that require cost recovery

Reputable and appropriately qualified polygraph examiners with strong educational backgrounds, active professional association memberships, robust experience, and certifications reasonably charge higher market rates reflective of their time and in-demand expertise when compared to questionably credentialed budget providers claiming expertise.

Cost Breakdown of a Polygraph Examination

The following represent the range of individual costs that may factor into a standard polygraph test:

  • Initial consultation with examiner – $0 to $300
  • Formulation of customized test questions – $100 to $500
  • Baseline test preparation and pre-interview – $150 to $400
  • Setup and calibration of polygraph equipment – $50 to $300
  • Administration of actual polygraph readings – $250 to $800
  • Scoring, examination, and analysis of results – $150 to $500
  • Preparation of a summary report for client – $100 to $300
  • Travel time and mileage expenses – $0 to $250
  • Optional video recording of session – $100 to $300
  • Any required legal or administrative fees – $0 to $500

Total Polygraph Examination Costs – $500 to $3,000+

The overall fee largely depends on the specific examiner, equipment, complexity, location, and time investment required for the particular circumstances and questions involved. Exercise caution vetting low budget providers making questionable claims of expertise who may deliver unreliable results.

You might also like our articles about the cost of alcohol testing, VNG tests, or the price of an ankle monitor.

Finding Cheaper Polygraph Testing Options

Polygraph TestingIf needing to minimize costs, some techniques that may potentially help reduce the total expense include:

  • Shopping around for comparison quotes between multiple qualified examiners within your local area rather than assuming one provider’s price is the going rate
  • Inquiring about any new client discounts or package deals an established examiner may offer
  • Exploring if your employer, organization, or association has existing preferred provider relationships that allow access to discounted polygraph rates
  • Opting for a basic pass/fail test format focused only on the few most essential questions needed rather than a comprehensive multipoint exam
  • Avoiding add-ons like video recording to limit ancillary fees that may not be strictly necessary
  • Scheduling your test during non-peak days/times if offered to take advantage of lower examiner availability slots
  • Keeping the test duration as condensed as possible by being well-rested and focused, which allows the examiner to conduct more sessions per day

However, it remains vitally important not to sacrifice legitimate examiner qualifications, expertise, professionalism, testing protocol, or analysis diligence solely to try reducing prices when making this crucial decision.

How to Select a Polygraph Examiner

Ideally potential examiners should possess:

  • Accredited training from a recognized and reputable polygraph specific school
  • Active memberships in professional industry groups like the American Polygraph Association demonstrating commitment to ongoing education and peer oversight
  • 10+ years of successful specialized polygraph testing work experience within your required domain
  • Strong client reviews, ratings, and referrals that can be verified
  • Clear explanations upfront of their testing process, protocols, reporting, and pricing
  • A comfortable, confidential, and ethical demeanor during your initial call and in-person pre-test consultation
  • Pricing that aligns with your geographic region and specific examination needs rather than unrealistic high or low extremes

Vetting the qualifications, subject matter expertise, abilities, professionalism, tools, techniques, and pricing of potential polygraph examiners extremely thoroughly through research and direct interactions remains vital for finding the optimal match to meet your particular situation and objectives. Rushing this decision or just going with the lowest cost option can prove highly risky and prone to inaccurate or unreliable outcomes.

Limitations of Polygraph Testing

While used for over a century, polygraphs have recognized limitations:

  • Results can be inaccurate or inconclusive
  • Not universally accepted as evidence
  • Unable to indicate why person is being deceptive if so
  • Relies somewhat on examiner’s interpretation
  • Controversial use for employee screening

Weigh benefits against noted limitations and alternative options available.

Final Words

While costs certainly represent just one aspect of the decision matrix, understanding the typical fee range of $500 to over $2,000 for a professional polygraph examination allows for more accurate budgeting and planning if pursuing this route.

But wise due diligence also entails thoroughly researching examiner qualifications, carefully considering limitations alongside potential benefits for your circumstances, and evaluating alternatives.

Polygraph tests may offer additional supplemental input when used selectively for limited purposes by highly trained accredited experts. However, approach with full knowledge of noted restrictions, and consider results within the appropriate context rather than conclusive fact. The ultimate choice depends on your specific goals, needs, constraints, and level of comfort with the tradeoffs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How accurate can a lie detector test be?

There is disagreement regarding polygraph accuracy under ideal conditions. Supporters claim 70-90% reliability for competent examiners on specific incidents when proper protocols are followed. Critics argue 50% or lower in some studies. Results should never be treated as infallible.

How long do lie detectors take?

The average polygraph test takes 1 to 2 hours from start to finish. This includes the pre-test interview, conducting the actual polygraph readings, and the post-test analysis. Complex legal or investigative tests may take longer. Sessions are not meant to be marathons.

Can you take a lie detector test for free?

Polygraph tests almost always require payment of fees to the conducting examiner and their organization. Very rarely nonprofits may offer limited testing services in specific circumstances. However, most tests require a fee given the examiner’s time and use of equipment. Carefully research any “free” offers to ensure legitimacy.

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