Different Types of Background Checks: How Do They Compare?

article by Rachel Carr
May 04, 2020
For various reasons, we may all want to know a bit more information about a person, than what they have already told us. However, what we find with a quick google search may not answer our every question. However, it is possible to employ the use of a background check company that can run a thorough background check for you.

But what are the types of background checks that are there? And which of the different types of background checks do you need? In this article, we investigate what are the different types of background checks so that you can choose which background check is most suitable for you and your needs. Finally, we list a number of brands that are particularly good at particular types of background checks, so that you can run a search suitable for your needs quickly.

What is a background check?

Before we investigate different types of background checks, it is a good idea to define what exactly a background check is in the first place to ensure that it is something that you definitely need.

While background checks vary from company to company, they are a way of investigating a person’s past to see if they have any record of illegal actions or simply if there is any information that you would like to know about them. This can mean a person’s work history, former identities or aliases, their social media usage, credit history or even any criminal records.

What are the different types of background checks?

There are several types of background checks available through several different companies that exist at the moment. Knowing the answer to what type of background checks are there can help you decide what information you are trying to extract from a person’s past and the purpose for which you want to use it. For example, the type of background check most employers use or carry out will be different from the types of background checks a person would do when they are trying to lease or buy a property.

Here are the different types of background checks available at the moment.

Property Owner Search

If you’re buying a house, or have seen a house you want to buy, but can’t find the property owner, running a search by a specialized company can often give you the answers you are looking for. For those that have only ever bought and sold properties through realtors, this may sound like a very unusual problem to have, but property owners who don’t want to be found are actually far more common occurrences than you would think.

People Search Engines

People search engines are a way of finding a person that you have lost touch with – for whatever reason. They can be pretty powerful tools to use as it can help people find long lost friends or relatives. In the past, it has been known that a people search engine has managed to reconnect two old school friends who go on to get married. In a day and age where social media is so prevalent, it can sometimes seem like we should be able to find everything we need upon a person easily. However, there are simply far too many sources for one individual to investigate. Specialized people search engines will do all the hard work for you – and far more quickly too.

Public Records Search Engine

Public records are pieces of information recorded by the government and archived, but available for public access. While it varies from state to state, the records available are ones that ruling bodies have decreed are of public interest. These can be on a federal, state or county level.

The difficulty with a public record search conducted purely by an individual is that so much information needs to be extracted from several different locations. A company that runs a public records search engine for you, will compile all information found on a person from several different sources in one place.

Reverse Phone Lookup

A reverse phone lookup is a way of checking a number that calls us. Whilst the odd missed call from an unrecognized number is normal and not troublesome, on occasion we can all be the victim of a person constantly calling us, but have no idea who they are. It’s a nuisance but it can also be quite intimidating. A reverse phone lookup is a background search that allows a person to find a caller’s details online.

Tenant Background Check

Tenant background checks are incredibly useful to run on prospective tenants. By running a check on candidates, you can ensure that you are not letting your house out to someone with a poor credit history, an unstable job or a criminal record that makes them a less than inviting tenant. For example, if they have been caught taking or selling drugs, have been involved in theft or any other serious crimes that rightly throw shade on their character. Obviously, if their criminal record merely shows they have not paid parking tickets in a timely manner, then that may be something you are happy to dismiss.

Running a background check on your tenants can, therefore, protect both you and your property from incurring any physical or financial damage. It is essential and easy to vet tenants with one of the background check companies available now.

Employment Search

A great number of all background checks that are conducted are done so with the intention of screen prospective employees. In doing so, companies can cross-check employee details against references to verify the information. This means that customers can ascertain whether future employees are who they say they are, they’ve worked where they’ve said they worked and they don’t have any criminal records.

Not only does this help companies hire an honest person with integrity, it also means they are hiring a person with the level of experience they need. If a person lies on their CV and says they have worked in an industry or sector for far longer than they actually have, then their future employer will need to spend more time training them up. This costs a firm time and money that could be used elsewhere.

Plus, this is good to know if you are applying for jobs. Knowing what type of background check do most employers use will stop you from applying for jobs that can be tempting to be slightly dishonest on your CV for. Given that the answer to what type of background check do most employers use is that they run an extensive search on your employment history – this will actually help you find a job more suitable to you. You could even run a background check on yourself too to see how you look to prospective employers online.

What are the different levels of background checks?

Within all background checks there are different levels that can be reached. In short, the larger the number, the more in-depth the background check will be. For example, it is possible to have a level 1-5.

A level 1 background check is the most basic check you can have carried out, with a level 5 background check being the most detailed you can get. In terms of what level you need, whether it be a level 2 background check, level 3 background check or a level 4 background check, it depends on a person’s needs and aims in conducting a check in the first place. Perhaps the most common is a type 2 background check as this shares a little bit more detail on the person in question, without often costing too much money to the customer either. However, ensure that a type 2 background check will answer your every need before you conduct one.

Why do you need a background check?

There are lots of reasons that you may need a background check – which is why there are so many different types of background checks available. However, in short, there are three main reasons as to why you need a background check.

Firstly, a background check is a great way to get the information you need. So often if we conducted the search ourselves it would take us much longer to find the pertinent facts about a person. Instead, we would find a lot of unhelpful and unnecessary information. That wastes your time.

Secondly, a background check by a specialized company will generate a report for you. This means that you have all your information that you wanted in one place for you to use as you see fit. It frees up your time because you do not have to wade through a lengthy document full of information that is useless to you.

Finally, you as an individual do not have to do the search yourself. You have saved time from the outset by outsourcing this task to someone instead of trying to do the same job with a google search that will only provide very scant information or details on the subject in question.

The Best Background Check Companies



BeenVerified is a background check company that exudes quality and efficiency. But what does it do best? Well, it should be one of your first ports of call if you want to conduct a public record search. It conducts an investigation from several sources and then compiles it all for the customer in one document so that you can draw insights from the findings easily and quickly. It’s also highly suitable for a people search if you need to find a relative or friend.

It costs $22.86 per month which allows customers to have an unlimited amount of background reports, phone, and email lookups and criminal records checks. If you need to conduct several public record checks over a longer time frame, then the three-month subscription is a good value at $14.86 a month – giving the customer a 35% discount. Our more in-depth review is here.


peoplelooker 210x100

PeopleLooker is a popular background check company and for good reason. It is affordable as well as easy to use so that investigating people for their background information is not an onerous task. All customers have to do is enter a name, and as many other data points as possible, to help get a more complete picture of an individual.

While PeopleLooker may be capable of running background checks that can provide information on a variety of subjects, one of the best purposes that PeopleLooker can be used for is to see if a person has any criminal records. This information can then be used by a person to deem whether they are suitable to date, live with or even employ.

PeopleLooker costs just $18.28 a month which allows a person to run an unlimited amount of background reports, email lookups, phone lookups, property lookups, and those all-important criminal record lookups. They also have a 3-month subscription available with the same amount of unlimited searches for $14.62 – a 30% discount.



As the name suggests, RentPrep is a great background check company to use if you are in need of seeing whether your prospective tenants or flatmates are suitable candidates. RentPrep are a tenant screen company that have a couple of products available to customers so that they can vet their candidates.

The most basic report that RentPrep conducts costs $18.95 which entitles the customer to an address history, eviction reports, bankruptcy data, and a social security number verification service. For an extra $12, the company will carry out verification calls and a criminal record or sex offender report will cost an additional $4. The whole process can take just a couple of hours from start to finish, but if you choose to have verification calls as part of your package, you may need to wait up to 24 hours.

SmartMove (By TransUnion)


SmartMove is another background check company that is suitable for running prospective tenant screens. It is so quick that it can also be suitable for those that are simply trying to find a new roommate too.

The company will create a report for you at a cost of $35 which will provide customers with any prior eviction notices, a credit report and a more general background check. The one-off payment is what helps make it so suitable for roommate checks as it is probably the case that you won’t need a month-long subscription or conduct an unlimited amount of background checks like what other different companies offer. Landlords still use this company however and often state that they like how easy it is to pass on the cost of the check to their tenants.

If a more in-depth record of their rental past and employment history is necessary, SmartMove can provide one for an extra £12.


Hireright 210x100

HireRight is the company you go to if you want to conduct a search on a prospective employee. In doing so, you can check details against references and see whether there is anything untoward in the past that would affect your decision to hire him or her.

They’re a great company to use thanks to being able to customize search reports so that they do not produce any unnecessary information for you. This means that all reports generated by the company are streamlined to your needs so that you can be as productive as possible as opposed to sifting through a lengthy report.

Finally, we like that HireRight can conduct background searches in over 240 countries as well as in 20 languages. Given the diversity of a workforce and therefore a prospective workforce from which we hire, being able to check or verify a person in every country they have lived in is imperative.

Pricing is available on request for HireRight reports.


Checkr 210x100

Checkr is another background check company that specializes in searches for employment purposes. They’re an impressive company that allows users to screen candidates quickly. Customers have found that the hiring process becomes not only quicker and easier when using Checkr, but that the person they end up hiring is also a better fit for their company so that productivity is increased too.

The company does this by helping to improve the process of hiring for both the employer and candidate, but also from ensuring that the pool of candidates, to begin with, is as high quality as it can be. Additionally, they run practical screening tests such as criminal records check, driver check, drug check, SSN Trace, verification check and credit check.

Pricing is available on request for Checkr reports.

What are the types of background checks – The Bottom Line

The best background check companies will tend to specialize in one type of search over another. It will have either been a conscious decision on their part or simply how they have set up their interface and methodology for searching for information on people.

Knowing the answer to what type of background checks are there available can really focus your research on what type of background search company will answer your needs. It’s imperative to get this right from the start so you don’t waste time or money using a company that is not a good fit for you or your purposes.