LAST UPDATED: May 15, 2019
Best Breathalyzers: Avoid Driving Under the Influence
Our top picks for the best breathalyzers for maximum accuracy and reliability
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON May 15, 2019
You can’t always tell if you are sober enough to drive. Using a breathalyzer is a good solution to this problem. All you need to do is breathe into the device to see if you are safe to get behind the wheel. There are numerous, good-quality portable breathalyzers on the market that can prevent you from driving under the influence of alcohol. We have narrowed down that list to the best devices available.
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.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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.
BACtrack is an American-owned breathalyzer company based in San Francisco, Calif. BACtrack is a leader in breathalyzers and offers a full range of innovative products for both professional and personal use. The company was founded in 2001 by Keith Nothacker when breathalyzers were strictly for law enforcement use. BACtrack was the first company to receive FDA marketing clearance in 2004 to sell breathalyzers to consumers for personal use. The BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer is one of its top products.
Quest Products Inc
Quest Products Inc. is a U.S.-based company that was founded in 2001. It is one of America’s leading companies in the manufacturing of several consumer products, including drug and alcohol testing. Its leading product, the AlcoHawk brand of breathalyzers, was a pioneer in the breath alcohol tester consumer market, releasing its first units in 1999. All of its breathalyzers are DOT-approved with a US FDA 510(k) pre-market clearance. One of its popular products is the AlcoHAWK PRO FC Breathalyzer.
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.
Best Breathalyzer Reviews & Recommendations 2020
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 Furhead AT5500 is an affordable and easy-to-use breathalyzer that uses advanced semiconductor sensor technology to measure the alcohol level in your breath. It takes only 15 seconds to warm up, and you have to blow continuously for five seconds to get an accurate reading. It has a small profile with a colored, backlit, LCD screen that displays large figures, which are easy to read at night.
The screen changes color depending on the alcohol content in your breath. When the results are less than 0.020 percent BAC, the display turns green. Readings from 0.020-0.049 percent BAC are displayed in yellow. Anything over 0.049 percent is displayed in red, and the gadget will beep continuously. The best part is that it uses a rechargeable battery, which can stay on standby for up to six months. Within that time, you can use the breathalyzer up to 1,000 times on a single charge.
The main problem with this breathalyzer is that it might register a 0.000 percent BAC reading even when you're not sober. Also, it might give different readings if you blow repeatedly, even after you’ve stopped drinking.
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.
Manufacturer AlcoMate says its breathalyzer is approved by the DOT, NHTSA, FDA, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The device is highly accurate and features a large, four-digit (0.000) LCD display (most breathalyzers have a three-digit display). It also has a self-diagnostic system and one-way air flow mouthpieces.
You need to replace the sensor after 200 or 300 tests (or nine to 12 months of use), but it is easy to do and comparable to replacing a battery in a phone or flashlight. The sensor module is pre-calibrated, so there’s no need to calibrate this breathalyzer. It has a pressure-sensor system that tells you if you have not blown long enough into the device, and a counter that tells you how many tests you have done. About the same size as a smartphone, this is an attractive device with a brushed-steel housing.
However, it can take as long as two minutes to provide a reading. Also, there have been some complaints about inaccuracy.
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.
The Rofeer Digital Breathalyzer is a budget-friendly option that emits audible alerts for your BAC. It’s fairly easy to use, and you just have to press the start button for two seconds and wait for about 15 seconds to get the gadget going. You blow for about five seconds, and the screen will change color from green to yellow then red, depending on your BAC level. The readings stay on the LCD screen for about 15 seconds. It stays green when your BAC is below the warning level and sounds an alarm when it turns red to indicate that your BAC is high.
The device keeps track of your BAC, and you can access your last 32 measurements. If you would like to monitor your drinking trend, then this could work for you. Also, it can display readings in six measurement values. It runs on three AAA batteries and powers off after 15 seconds of inactivity to save power. In addition, it comes with five mouthpieces that can be washed and reused.
However, the unit may not be accurate if you test your BAC in less than 20 minutes after you stopped drinking. Also, it might start to fog up over time. In addition, it’s not DOT-approved or NHTSA-certified.
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.
For those seeking a way to understand alcohol content a while after drinking, the FFTOPU Portable Breathalyzer is a solid choice. Easy to use, this comprehensive breathalyzer takes only a couple of seconds to start working. Requiring only five seconds of breath, you get results efficiently on the crisp LCD screen. This way, you can see the results clearly every time.
By incorporating multiple metrics, you can access results in percentage or amount per liter. It’s powered by double-A batteries, giving you easy access to replacements. Coming with five mouthpieces, you can get started with this breathalyzer right away. Since it features both audio and visual alarms, it is easier to understand the message at any time. You can fit it into a pocket with ease, letting you bring it pretty much anywhere. With simple controls and a crisp display, this is a truly user-friendly selection.
- 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.
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 Furhead AT5500 Breathalyzer.