Best Breathalyzers: Avoid Driving Under the Influence
Our top picks for the best breathalyzers for maximum accuracy and reliability
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We can’t always tell if we are good enough to drive home. Having a breathalyzer is a perfect solution to this problem. All you need to do is puff into the device to see if you are good to go. There are hundreds of quality portable breathalyzers on the market that can help you avoid driving under the influence of alcohol. To help you make a good decision, we have narrowed down that list to the best devices.
BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer
- Incredibly sensitive and accurate device
- Easy to use
- Comes with a discreet case
- Capable of conducting thousands of tests before recalibration
- Features a four-digit LED display for comprehensive test results
- Comes with a one-year warranty
- Sensors in this breathalyzer need recalibration once every 12 months
- Rather large to be portable
- High price tag
iSOBER 10 Breathalyze
- Device is accurate, fast-acting, and compact
- App is easy to use
- Device has a self-diagnosis system to ensure it's working properly at all times
- Connecting the device to W-iFi may be a challenge
- You may also have a problem pairing your phone with the device
BACtrack Trace Portable Breathalyzer
- Extremely accurate device
- Sleek understated design for ease of use
- Sold with a convenient carrying case
- Provides accurate BAC readings within seconds
- Great battery life for extended use
- Listed by the FDA as a medical device
- Full one-year warranty
- Does not provide date and time of reading
- Needs recalibration once a year
- Reviewers say readings are not accurate immediately after taking a drink
- Not many mouthpieces are supplied with this device
Best Overall: BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer
Best Value: iSOBER 10 Breathalyzer
Best Professional: BACtrack Trace Portable Breathalyzer
Premium Pick: AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer
Honorable Mention: BACtrack Scout Breathalyzer
Honorable Mention: BACtrack Element Breathalyzer
Honorable Mention: BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer
Honorable Mention: BACtrack C8 Breathalyzer
Best Breathalyzers: Reviews & Recommendations
There’s a reason why BACtrack’s S80 Professional Breathalyzer made it to the top of this list: it's one of the most accurate personal breathalyzers available. This smart gadget delivers results in just 10 seconds and comes packed with a discreet case to protect it from prying eyes.
The BACtrack professional breathalyzer is user-friendly thanks to its one-touch technology. The biggest benefit of this device is its impressive accuracy that’s within 0.0000 to 0.4000 percent. It is capable of maintaining this level of accuracy even when it is used repeatedly within a short timeframe. The breathalyzer features fuel cell sensors that are capable of lasting for thousands of tests. BACtrack offers a one-year warranty with every purchase of this device.
A significant drawback to this device is that it requires recalibration once a year. However, this is a small price compared to a DUI fine. In addition, at 2.3 x 0.8 x 4.8 inches, the body of the device is rather large. This breathalyzer is also quite pricey compared to other devices on the market.
The iSOBER 10 Breathalyzer is a DOT/NHTSA-compliant professional-grade alcohol tester. It features accurate and reliable fuel cell sensor technology that's designed to last. In addition, if you have an HSA/FSA account, you qualify for reimbursement when you purchase this device. You can measure your BAC in seconds, and you have the option of syncing it with a smartphone app. Your BAC will be saved on the app, so you can track and monitor your history.
When you blow into the unit, the app can take a photo and save it with your location, so you can share and verify the information with friends or family via email, text, or social media. The app is free, no subscription is required, and there is no charge for the test. The unit also has Self-Diagnosis System (SDS) technology that displays the sensor status whenever it detects a BAC, so you know it's working properly. Users report that it's accurate, works quickly, the app is easy to use, and it's small and compact.
However, some users have complained that it struggles to connect to Wi-Fi. Others have had problems pairing it with their devices using Bluetooth.
When looking for a good breathalyzer, it's a good idea to choose one that rivals models used by law enforcement officials or hospitals. Fortunately, this is what the BACtrack Trace portable breathalyzer does. It is an approved alcohol screening gadget and is listed by the FDA as a medical device.
The Trace breathalyzer is so good that it is capable of detecting tiny traces of alcohol in your system. It also has a high accuracy level up to the third decimal point. This portable breathalyzer is compact enough to fit in your purse or pocket. Carrying this device is no hassle at all.
After blowing into this alcohol detector, users will receive the results in no more than 15 seconds. The BACtrack Trace is supplied with AAA batteries that can last for several hours. Apart from storing information from the last 10 BAC results, it has adjustable warning levels.
The BACtrack Trace professional breathalyzer is incredibly easy to use. Once powered on, the user is only required to blow into the device. It also features extra mode features that help the user to further customize the device for better usage and accuracy.
A big drawback to this device is that it does not provide the time and date, so you can’t exactly tell when readings were taken. You also need to send it for recalibration once a year, so you will have to incur additional expenses when investing in this breathalyzer.
The BACtrack Scout Breathalyzer is a sleek, digital breathalyzer that provides accurate readings without much effort required by the user. It needs just two AAA batteries, and you can power it on with just a single button. It takes 10 seconds to warm up, and then you can begin testing. It displays the readings after just 10 seconds. You get about 1,000 tests out of this device without needing to replace the batteries. Also, it keeps a record of the total number of tests you’ve done.
Just as with other BACtrack breathalyzers, this one utilizes Xtend Fuel Cell Sensor technology to deliver accurate readings within the 0.000 to 0.400 percent BAC range. Further contributing to its accuracy is a mini solenoid internal breath pump that ensures precise readings by excluding ambient air, airborne gases, and fumes that may interfere with the results. Also, the device comes with three extra mouthpieces and is backed with a one-year warranty.
Unfortunately, a few models may suffer some quality issues. These include inaccuracies, failing to power on, or failing completely after a few months of use.
We are impressed with the professional quality and accuracy of BACtrack breathalyzers, and that’s why we included more than one model on this list. The BACtrack Element Breathalyzer is a DOT- and NHTSA-compliant gadget— that's largely because it uses BACtrack’s Xtend Fuel Cell Sensor that guarantees professional-grade accuracy. It can be used in hospitals and clinics and by law enforcement.
Operating this gadget is fairly easy since it only has one button and provides your results 10 seconds after you blow. The data is displayed on a well-lit, LCD screen. It gives accurate results over a range of 0.000 to 0.400 percent, which is a complete range of the expected alcohol concentration in your breath. In addition, it has a compact profile and will fit in your pocket. Also, the manufacturer backs it with a one-year warranty for repair or a complete replacement.
While it may provide an accurate way to read your BAC, you have to blow consistently with enough pressure for a reading to register. This can get frustrating, especially when you have to do it several times.
Hang the BACtrack C6 breathalyzer on your keychain, and use it to test your alcohol levels whenever you need to. It’s a compact device that provides highly accurate readings on an easy-to-read display. There are two ways to use the device: on standalone mode or by using an app. On standalone mode, the BAC reading is displayed on the built-in OLED screen.
When using the BACtrack app, you connect it wirelessly using Bluetooth with any smartphone (Apple or Android). If you are too tipsy to drive, you can use the breathalyzer to request an Uber directly from the app. What’s interesting is that the app can estimate when your BAC will drop to zero. It can be used in a professional setting in clinics, hospitals, or law enforcement.
Unfortunately, the app might not always work, and it might show inconsistencies at lower BAC levels. Also, it isn’t DOT approved, and you have to recalibrate the sensors once a year to maintain accuracy.
The BACtrack C8 Breathalyzer is unique in that it features optional wireless connectivity, so you can pair it with your iOS or Android device, but it's not required. The Standalone Mode provides BAC results directly on the breathalyzer, while the App Mode provides results on your smartphone. Switching between modes is rather simple.
The C8 uses a BluFire Fuel Cell Sensor that provides professional-grade accuracy. It also features ZeroLine technology that gives you an estimated time when your BAC will return to 0.00 percent, which is very convenient if you need to drive your car. But if you can't sober up quickly enough, you can call an Uber or alternative transportation using the app. The company also provides a one-year warranty should the device fail within the first 12 months of use.
However, there have been some complaints that the wireless connection is a little slow, and you may have to wait a little while for the results. Also, residual alcohol vapors in your mouth or throat may cause inaccurate readings, so you should wait a little while before taking a reading for a more accurate measurement
Our Verdict on the Best Breathalyzers
Our top pick for the best breathalyzer is the BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer. This portable breathalyzer is a high-quality product that is DOT-approved and delivers impressive results within 0.0000 to 0.00004 percent BAC.
If you are looking for great value in a mid-priced breathalyzer, check out the iSOBER 10 Breathalyzer.
Benefits of a Breathalyzer
- Get accurate results. One of the worst decisions anyone can make is to drive a car while under the influence of alcohol. In this state, your basic motor skills are impaired, which could lead to an accident, damage of property, and even death. Breathalyzers have the capability of accurately measuring your blood alcohol levels, helping you make a better judgment of the situation.
- Avoid getting DUI fines. In the United States, the average penalty for DUI (driving under the influence) is $480. This figure could quickly rise if other penalties and fees are added. Getting a portable breathalyzer can save you from unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
- Make a well-informed decision. Your physical makeup and composition directly influence your BAC levels. In the US, all states currently adopt a 0.08-percent legal limit for driving. A personal breathalyzer will help you get accurate results to make a well-informed decision.
- Test your alcohol content level from anywhere. Personal breathalyzers are specially made to fit in your pocket or purse. You can check if you have exceeded your limit anytime, anywhere.
Types of Breathalyzers
Electrochemical Fuel Cell Analyzers
These devices use an electrical current to detect the blood alcohol content in a person's breath sample. There are two electrodes within the cell. One electrode has platinum and gold, and this is where any alcohol in the sample gets oxidized into acetic acid. The more alcohol there is in a breath sample, the more electrons will be produced in the reaction.
These breathalyzers have a built-in semiconductor that produces a small electrical current. When alcohol gets to the semiconductor, it changes the current. The bigger the change, the more alcohol there is in a sample. It’s important to note that results can be variable since these breathalyzers are sensitive to climate, altitude, and even cigarette smoke.
Infrared Optical Sensor Analyzer
These are ideally infrared spectrometers. They work by identifying chemicals that are within a sample of air by measuring the way the molecules can absorb infrared light. Alcohol is known to absorb a certain wavelength of infrared radiation. Therefore, the more the wavelength absorbed, the more alcohol there is in the sample. This is the most accurate type of breathalyzer and will rarely get confused by mouth alcohol.
Best Breathalyzer Pricing
- Under $50: There are a variety of personal, portable breathalyzers at this price. However, most of them only offer primary functionality. Depending on the manufacturing company, breathalyzers here are popular due to their low price and basic functionality.
- $50-$120: The best breathalyzers are found at this price range. These breathalyzers offer better construction, calibration, and more accurate readings. Due to the higher-end construction, they can give consistent readings over a long period of time.
- Over $120: There aren’t a lot of personal breathalyzers in this price range. However, devices here are the best of the best. They are manufactured with the highest quality materials and offer superior technology for the most accurate readings.
Large Display/Audible Warnings
BAC readings aren’t something you want to get wrong. A large display built right into the device makes it easy to get clear readings, regardless of the time of day. If numbers don’t work for you, look for a device with audible warnings. A breathalyzer with audible warnings will produce a sound when you are too intoxicated to get behind the wheel.
You’ll probably want to take your breathalyzer with you to parties and events where alcohol is served. The last thing you want is something that is overly bulky. It’s convenient to purchase something that can fit in the palm of your hands or can discreetly fit in your pocket or purse.
- Quick Performance: Complex breathalyzers require about 30 to 40 seconds of warm-up time. The best breathalyzers are ready to go in under 20 seconds. Quick performance means you won’t decide to leave before getting tested.
- Recalibration: After extended use, any type of hardware is prone to lose its accuracy. To get it back to its initial level of accuracy, breathalyzer users need to send them back to the manufacturer for servicing or, where possible, order new sensors to recalibrate the device at home. The latter option, for convenience sake, is often the better option.
- When purchasing a breathalyzer, it’s important that you get extra mouthpieces in case you want to share it with other people. Sharing mouthpieces is unsanitary.
- Some breathalyzers will not work if the surrounding temperature is below the freezing point. Therefore, it's advisable not to store it in your car during winter nights.
- Check the product manual for the best usage practices. While some breathalyzers have self-calibration mechanisms, others need to be sent back for recalibration once a year. Other devices have a steep learning curve; understanding how to use them will go along the way helping you get accurate BAC readings consistently.
Q. Are breathalyzers accurate?
A: Well, this depends entirely on the type of breathalyzer you buy. Fuel cell breathalyzers are considered to be highly accurate. Semiconductor types, on the other hand, are considered to be little more than a novelty toy.
Q. How should I use my portable breathalyzer?
A: Check your user manual before attempting to use a breathalyzer. For best results, wait 20 minutes after drinking or eating anything before you test your BAC. Avoid using alcohol-based mouthwashes or testing in high winds or enclosed spaces. Blowing smoke into the mouthpiece will damage the sensors.
Q. How often do breathalyzers need recalibration?
A: All portable breathalyzers will come calibrated and ready for use. Check the user manual for instructions on calibration. Normally, the manufacturers will give instructions on how often the device needs to be recalibrated to guarantee the accuracy of readings. Most devices will need recalibration after 365 days or more if used frequently.
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