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
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.
- Best OverallBACtrack S80 Professional BreathalyzerSummarySummaryThe BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer is the best breathalyzer to consider if you want the precision only police-grade tech can deliver. Features an accurate sensor which shows no false positives. This device is trusted by clinics, law enforcement, and hospitals.ProsPros
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.ConsConsThe sensors in this breathalyzer need recalibration once every 12 months. Rather large to be portable. High price tag.
- Best ValueAlcoHAWK PT500 BreathalyzerSummarySummaryThe AlcoHAWK PT500 is an ideal device for those looking for a high accuracy device with the capability to eliminate false positives. Use this device with confidence since it meets U.S. Department of Transportation standards. A highly dependable device with consistent accuracy regardless of how many drinks you have.ProsProsFeatures an easy to use LED display. Sleek, stylish and user-friendly design. Long-lasting batteries for extended use. A simple menu-driven operation that allows for quick and accurate BAC readings. Lasts more than a 1,000 uses before recalibration.ConsConsThis device is sensitive to high and low temperatures. Only comes with 10 mouthpieces. Its build construction is not durable. This breathalyzer will need recalibration after 12 months. Steep learning curve.
- Honorable MentionBACtrack Trace Portable BreathalyzerSummarySummaryThe BACtrack Trace Portable Breathalyzer is well regarded by users for its police-grade sensor technology capabilities. It’s an ideal choice for users looking for a mid-range device with good accuracy. Offers really good battery life, meaning it should be ready to go when you need it.ProsProsExtremely 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.ConsConsDoes not provide the 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.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product 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 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. 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 US-based company founded back in 2001. It has risen to be 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 PT500 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 2019
Best Overall: BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer
There’s a reason BACtrack’s S80 Professional Breathalyzer made it to the top of our list: It's one of the most accurate personal breathalyzers on the market. 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 has been specially designed to be 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 the device 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 every year. However, this is a small price compared to DUI fines. 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.
Best Value: AlcoHAWK PT500 Breathalyzer
The AlcoHAWK PT500 Breathalyzer is a fairly new device from the AlcoHawk series of portable breathalyzers. This breathalyzer features a PT Core fuel-cell sensor that makes it highly accurate. The accuracy of the fuel-cell sensor makes it an ideal choice over standard semiconductor sensors common with traditional breathalyzers.
The PT500 breathalyzer is NHTSA- and DOT-approved, so it's perfect for both law enforcement as well as personal use. This portable breathalyzer has an accuracy of 0.0000 to 0.4000 percent BAC and features an audible warning that alerts the user whenever they are not in a condition to drive.
The AlcoHawk PT500 breathalyzer is designed to last for more than 1,000 uses before recalibration. It also comes with 10 mouthpieces straight out of the box. It has a unique rounded build with an easy to read backlit LCD screen that is ideal for low light conditions.
The PT500 breathalyzer is powered by two AA batteries that have the capability of running for hundreds of hours before requiring battery replacement. It also comes with a one-year warranty.
One drawback with this portable breathalyzer is users need to send the device for recalibration after 12 months. Its accuracy is also affected by high or low-temperature conditions. The AlcoHAWK PT500 has a poor build, something that affects its durability.
Honorable Mention: BACtrack Trace Portable Breathalyzer
When looking for a good breathalyzer, it's always a good idea to get 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 even listed by the FDA as a medical device.
The Trace breathalyzer is so good that it is capable of detecting traces of alcohol in your system and has a high accuracy level up to the third decimal place. This portable breathalyzer is compact enough to fit in your purse or pocket. Carrying this device will be 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. These batteries rarely need to be replaced. 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 every year, meaning the user will have to incur additional expenses investing in this breathalyzer.
- 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. 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 instruction 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 to get something that is affordable, check out the AlcoHAWK PT500 Breathalyzer. Designed with an electronic airflow sensor, this device can capture a deep-lung sample.