Look, avoiding drunk driving is something that can’t be stressed enough. As everyone knows, when you are intoxicated with alcohol, your mental awareness is simply not there and you will be in no state to be behind the wheel of an automobile. Not only does this put you at risk but also other innocent drivers on the road. But, many of you will enjoy going out on a Friday or Saturday night to kick back and let loose. This is perfectly fine but if you do not have a designated driver, then you need to be responsible. One way of doing this is to invest in your own personal breathalyzer. This way, you can ensure that you are under the legal alcohol limit and that you will not pose a threat to other drivers. Sounds simple, right? Well, it can be, but you really need to know some things.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 3 hrs of research
Equipped with PRISM technology
It is very easy to use
It is both DOT approved and US Coast Guard cleared
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST BREATHALYZERS
1. ALCOMATE REVO TS200
Equipped with PRISM technology
It is very easy to use
It is both DOT approved and US Coast Guard cleared
The initial cost is very expensive
Not loaded with features
There is one primary reason why the TS200 tops this list and that is because it integrates PRISM technology. With this amazing implementation, recalibration is not going to be necessary.Read more
The aforementioned PRISM technology is also utilized to enhance the accuracy of the TS200. Oh, and for the record, it is also US Coast Guard cleared and DOT approved for law enforcement accuracy.
Ease of Use
Really, this model is very easy to use and it comes down to its simple nature. Within the first attempt, you will have this down pat.
Yep, this is where the brilliance of this device really shines. Most breathalyzers on the market will require recalibrating but thanks to the power of PRISM technology, this one does not (all you need to do is replace the old sensor module when it quits working).
As alluded to, this is not loaded with features. But, the PRISM technology really makes up for it and then some.
The super slim nature of the TS200 makes it incredibly suitable for travel. In fact, you could easily fit it in your purse or even in your pants pocket.
Could one technology really make this much difference for a product such as this? The short answer is yes because this one technology ensures precise accuracy and ultimate convenience.
2. BACTRACK S80
It is both DOT and NHTSA approved
The fuel cell sensor technology enhances the battery life
Number one rated model by Wirecutter
Regular calibration will be necessary
Get used to seeing the name of BACtrack because they are the so-called leaders of this technology. When it comes to pristine accuracy, their S80 model just so happens to be the standard bearer.Read more
Yep, this is why BACtrack rules this industry. Their S80 is powered by their platinum-based Xtend fuel cell sensor. Just to give you an idea of what this means, this is the same police-grade technology that is trusted by law enforcement and hospitals.
Ease of Use
Thanks to the power of the one-button operation and the bright LCD display, it is very easy to use this device. The minute you blow into it the first time, you will be a pro.
Unlike the top model, this will need to be recalibrated. It is recommended to do so at least once a year (though it does depend a bit on how frequently you use it).
What is really nice is you can actually set BAC thresholds for yourself. In addition to this, you can also change the units of measurements if you desire.
Even though this may be a bit bulky to fit into your pants pocket, it can still easily be transported and stored in the glove box of your vehicle (or even in your purse, if you carry one).
As long as you keep up on the calibration, you should never have any issues with the S80. It is just a superior design in every way imaginable, ladies and gentlemen.
3. BACTRACK MOBILE
Features Bluetooth technology
Sports a compact size and an excellent battery life
Has been highly regarded for its professional-grade accuracy
The app can be difficult to use at times
Now, this is an entirely different offering from BACtrack and is one of the most unique models on the entire market. This is for the sole reason that it utilizes Bluetooth technology to connect to your latest smart devices.Read more
The same Xtend fuel cell sensor that is used to power the S80 is used to power this mobile model. As before, this means that the accuracy is top-notch and trusted by even law enforcement.
Ease of Use
Now, the device itself is not too tricky to use but the accompanying app can be. Let’s just say that it can take some time to get accustomed to (the layout and the interface that is).
If you use this extensively, it will probably need to be recalibrated every six months or so. When doing so, you will need to return it back to the company.
Yeah, this is overflowing with features thanks to the accompanying app. The major ones that stick out are the ability to save and track your results over time and the estimated duration of when your BAC level will be back to 0.00 percent.
When you hold this next to your smartphone, you can see just how compact it is. For sure, you should have no troubles finding a convenient spot for it on the road.
In the modern world of smart technology, it only seems appropriate that this device exists. For some of you, the combination of BACtrack’s classic accuracy and the utilization of your smartphone may be too compelling to pass up.
4. BACTRACK TRACE
Sports a built-in flashback memory
Built with a long-lasting fuel cell sensor
Listed as an FDA medical device
A few buyers have claimed it can be hard to use at times
Is it unfair to go with another BACtrack model or is it proof that they really are the juggernauts of the breathalyzer industry? Either way, it does not matter as their Trace is another brilliant design.Read more
Once again, this is another model that is designed with BACtrack’s platinum-based Xtend fuel cell sensor. Does it really need to be reiterated that this sensor offers superior accuracy?
Ease of Use
Though the Trace is designed with the typical one-button operation of BACtrack, various users have noted that it can be mildly confusing to get readings at times.
The same Xtend fuel cell sensor that was just mentioned is also long-lasting. In fact, BACtrack recommends getting it recalibrated only once a year (depending on the use of course).
Here is what is nice about the Trace; it can store your last 10 BAC readings so you can access them for later use. Of course, it does not record the time or dates of such readings which is mildly disappointing.
Of all of BACtrack’s professional models, this is their most compact and is one of its biggest selling points. You can literally take it with you anywhere you go with ease.
Look, at this point, you understand the quality that this brand possesses. What is amazing is this is not even the second best model from the powerhouse known as BACtrack.
5. ALCOMATE PREMIUM AL7000
Sports a user-friendly interface
Includes five single-use mouthpieces
Equipped with PRISM technology
It is a very simple device and does not store readings
Much like with the TS200, the AL7000 is a device that utilizes the power of PRISM technology. In addition to this, it sports a digital screen that is specific down to three decimal points.Read more
Yep, thanks to the power of PRISM technology, the AL7000 is another top-end model on the market that can be relied upon for its accuracy alone.
Ease of Use
Overall, the interface is extremely intuitive and easy to view. The LCD screen is also really nice as it does not look dated and is specific down to three decimal points (as mentioned).
AlcoMate takes pride in their AL7000 because of its PRISM technology because as they mention, recalibration is a flawed process. This technology eliminates the need for it completely.
Though five single-use mouthpieces do come included with your purchase, this does not store previous readings and is pretty basic overall.
In addition to being compact in size, this comes with a carrying pouch and also a hand strap for your convenience.
This ends an incredibly impressive top-five and the case can be made that any of these options are the best on the market. The AL7000 is as stellar as they come, believe that.
6. PRO-TEC X-2000
Comes packaged with a soft carrying case
Can store up to five previous tests
It has been FDA 510(k) approved
Not as compact as other options
No clear instructions are included
Well, would you look at that, here is a model from a different brand? Of course, the Pro-Tec X-2000 can certainly compete with the previous models as it sports police-grade technology.Read more
One of the reasons you can put your faith in the Pro-Tec X-2000 is the fact that it is FDA 510(k) approved. This is thanks to its fuel cell sensor, police-grade technology.
Ease of Use
Previous users have criticized the intuitiveness of this design a bit. And, it does not help that, according to a few, the instructions are not very clear.
It is advised by the seller to recalibrate this bad boy after around 500 to 1000 tests. With heavy use, this means you would need to do so once every year (or even once every six months).
In addition to sporting an automatic shut off feature and a low battery warning indicator, this also sports built-in memory that can remember up to five tests.
Yes, there are more compact and slimmer models on the market. One positive, however, is that a soft carrying case is included with your purchase.
If you, for whatever reason, do not want to go with either a BACtrack or AlcoMate breathalyzer then this right here is an excellent alternative. Need more be said?
7. ACE II BASIC
It has been tested against other leading brands for accuracy
Has a very fast processing time
Equipped with a high-quality fuel cell sensor module
Not the most enjoyable interface to use
As you can probably gather from the name of this model, it is fairly basic. Then again, its greatest claim to fame is the fact that it was dubbed the most accurate device by the Technical University in Vienna.Read more
A high-quality fuel cell sensor module powers this and as mentioned, it has been extensively tested and even was awarded the most accurate device in a series of test by the aforementioned university.
Ease of Use
As a few previous users have reported, you may need to read the instructions beforehand. Though not entirely complex, it is not the most intuitive design on the market.
A recommended calibration of once every year is not only very common but also cost friendly. And, even though it will cost you money, it will be nothing substantial.
If you wanted to opt against using a mouthpiece with this, you could utilize it in passive mode and this would completely bypass the need for it.
First off, a hard case comes with this model and even though it is not as slim as some others, it will still be able to fit into almost every pants pocket and shirt that you have.
As a “second-level tier” model, the Ace II Basic is pretty darn impressive. It even sports a highly accurate fuel cell sensor so you know, at the very least, it will be precise.
8. ALCOHAWK PT500
Designed with a large LCD, backlit display
Features an audible and visual warning system
It can easily be slipped into your pocket
The housing seems a little fragile
Various users have criticized the accuracy
The PT500 is an excellent example of a device that is perfectly fine but one that is overshadowed by devices that are simply superior in almost every way. Still, the PT500 is a more than solid option.Read more
Even though there have been various reviewers who have criticized the accuracy of the PT500, it does integrate PT Core Sensor technology and this allows it to eliminate false positives.
Ease of Use
In addition to the fact that this sports a large and easy-to-read LCD display (that is also backlit), it is also driven by its simple menu operation.
Now, recalibration for this model is actually recommended after every 200 tests. This is a bit quicker than other models so if you plan to use this extensively, you may want to factor this into your decision.
If a certain BAC limit is passed when you or others breathe into this device, an audible and visual warning will go off. But, what is nice is this limit can be adjusted.
Included with your purchase is a case and on top of this, the PT500 is incredibly compact and slim and can be stored pretty much anywhere you can think of.
At its core, the PT500 is a breathalyzer that is powered with advanced sensor technology. Still, it does have a few flaws and these may end up being a deal breaker for you.
9. BACTRACK KEYCHAIN
Designed with a fold-out mouthpiece
One of the most compact designs on the market
Can easily be operated with one button
It can be inaccurate at times
Now, this one is a little different from BACtrack. It is actually one of the more compact units on the entire list and although it does not perform as well as others, it is more than competent.Read more
Due to the advanced MicroCheck Sensor technology that is integrated here, you can put your faith in this keychain model. Of course, some users have claimed that it can be inaccurate at times.
Ease of Use
In terms of ease of use, this is not too much different than the other BACtrack models on this list. It sports one-touch operation as is generally user-friendly.
Yes, regular calibration of this model is going to be required but it is not going to be anything out of the ordinary.
If nothing else, you have to give some credit to this model for its creativity. After all, there is an innovative fold-out mouthpiece and it ensures that only your breath goes into it.
As this is a keychain model, it means that you can carry it on one. Of course, overall, as mentioned, this is one of the most compact options on the entire market.
For a BACtrack model, this is good but not great. As a regular breathalyzer, it is a fantastic design. That pretty much says it all, does it not?
10. JASTEK PROFESSIONAL
Designed with low-voltage indication
The caution and alarming values can be set manually
Calibration is not required
Utilizes inferior sensors which result in less accuracy
This is an option that can get swept under the radar a bit. Truth be told, it can’t compete with the higher-end options on this list but it is still an affordable option that will let you know if you are safe to drive.Read more
Due to the fact that this uses semiconductor sensors, it is simply not as accurate as superior models on this list and on the market, in general.
Ease of Use
This really is as easy as it gets. All you need to do is press the power button for a few seconds to start it up. From there, after waiting several seconds, blow into the tube for around five seconds.
One benefit to the fact that this uses semiconductor sensors is the fact that it is not going to need recalibration.
There are three unique features that are built-in to this design. Firstly, both caution and alarming values can be set manually based on your needs. Secondly, different units can be chosen from and lastly, up to 32 readings can be stored for future reference.
Along the same line as every other handheld breathalyzer on the market, portability will not be an issue here.
The lack of needing recalibration is fantastic but here is the deal; the accuracy is not as precise as models with fuel cell sensors.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is the single most important factor in this entire guide, easily.
By far, this right here is the most important buying consideration for breathalyzers. No one is going to tell you different so this should not come as a surprise. The reason it is so important is that not every single model on the market will sport the same accuracy. And, it all really comes down to the technology that is integrated. In specific, the sensors as you will see two main types. The first is known as semiconductor sensors and, in general, these are the inferior of the two. Now, with that said, these have still been proven to perform very well. And, in fact, BACtrack themselves utilizes a more advanced version of these sensors in some of their models (known as advanced MicroCheck sensor technology).
Now, the second type of sensor that you will often see is known as a fuel cell sensor. Spearheaded by BACtrack once again, these are the sensors that are used by law enforcement and are found in professional-grade models. If you are looking for the most precise and accurate readings possible then you should stick with these types of sensors. Oh, and also, it is never a bad idea to look for breathalyzers that are FDA approved as medical devices.
Ease of Use
Though these are generally pretty simple devices to operate, some will be easier than others.
As you probably know, there are some technology devices on the market that are downright complex and confusing to use. Of course, these same devices will get easier as you become accustomed to their layouts and interfaces. The good news is that will not generally be the case with this type of technology. Even though it can’t be guaranteed that you will never experience mild confusion while you operate a breathalyzer, it should be a straightforward process. Even if it is not, though, most sellers will include instructions with their model to walk you through the process.
To give you an idea of what you can expect, here is a general synopsis of what most models will entail you doing. For starters, you will need to attach a mouthpiece to it (if one is not included then you will need to get some separately). Once this is done, you will simply hold down the power button to start it, wait a few seconds for it to load, blow into the mouthpiece for a solid four to five seconds until the beeping stops, and then wait for the results to display on the LCD screen. Clearly, these are just the basics as there may be other features to toy around with.
This right here is all about the recalibration process.
This is all about recalibration. Of course, what exactly is this? Well, the process of calibrating a breathalyzer is a simple one as it involves checking and adjusting the integrated sensor to ensure it is displaying an accurate reading. Depending on the type of sensor, however, you may have to do this more frequently. For example, you may be able to get upward of 1000 uses out of professional-grade devices but only 400 to 500 uses out of inferior devices. However, you can’t perform this yourself. This type of calibration needs to be conducted by a trained lab technician and that means that you will need to send in your model when the time comes.
Yet, what if this could be bypassed altogether? Even though very few models can bypass this, AlcoMate has figured out a way thanks to PRISM technology. In their own words, manual recalibration is a flawed process as it does not address the natural degradation of the sensor itself. With PRISM technology, all you need to do is literally replace the existing sensor module with one that is pre-calibrated and brand-new.
There are actually some rather simple features that you can look for that can really seperate certain models from others.
Though these devices are simple in concept, some of them can come equipped with additional features that can make all the difference in the world. For example, some models may have the ability to be connected to your smartphone. Now, there are not too many options on the market like this but with a corresponding app, the features become nearly endless. Of course, most generally, most breathalyzers will be equipped with all or a few of the following features.
The first is the ability to store previous BAC readings for future use. Now, the only way this will be possible is if the model integrates onboard memory. For the most part, this will typically be nothing more than 5 to 10 readings but at least it is something. Additionally, some designs will allow you to select the BAC threshold manually. Oh, and also do not overlook a simple feature that indicates when the battery is low as this can be a frustrating omission if it is not present.
This is pretty straight forward but if you want to use your model on the go, it needs to be portable (and most will be).
Relax, because you can finally take a breath for this section. This is not to say that this is not as important as the previous sections but it is almost a foregone conclusion granted you go with handheld models. The reality of the situation is most breathalyzers on the market will be extremely portable as that is the nature of their design. With that said, some options will be slimmer and more compact than others. For example, if you want to fit a model into your pants pocket comfortably then it will need to be very slim. Oh yeah, and some sellers will even include a carrying pouch or case with your purchase.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Without question, all your focus should be predicated on this section to begin. The accuracy of any given model is going to be the single most important feature, period. And, what affects this is the type of technology that is integrated. More specifically, you need to assess what types of sensors any given design incorporates. This alone will give you a strong indication of the accuracy that will be provided to you.
Admittedly, most of the options out there will not be overly complicated to operate. Then again, the more features they have the more you will need to learn. And, this is why it may be in your best interest to invest in a model that is both intuitive and that includes decent instructions. Of course, if you ever do get confused, you can always access online tutorials and guides for reference.
Some of you may believe this section is nothing more than a headache but guess what, it is a headache that can’t be ignored. After all, if you avoid recalibration, then your model will eventually become so inaccurate that it will be pointless to possess. Then again, not all designs out there will need to be sent to companies for recalibration. And, this right here can be a game changer.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What is BAC?
The term “BAC” has been referred to a few times during this article and while you have probably heard of it previously, perhaps you do not know what it stands for and what it means. It is actually an acronym for Blood Alcohol Content and it literally refers to the concentration of alcohol that is in someone’s blood. It is a metric that is used to measure how intoxicated you are, quite frankly.
q: Is it safe for other people to use your model?
Perhaps the word “safe” was not the most appropriate word to use here but nevertheless, if other individuals wanted to use your breathalyzer then it should be fine for them to do so. About the only potential issue is reusing mouthpieces as to remain sanitary, your friends or family members should use their own mouthpiece to blow into. But, as for the device itself, there really should be no issues if you allow others to utilize it.
q: Should you buy them used?
There are just some consumer products that you should not purchase used or refurbished, for that matter. As you may have guessed, breathalyzers are one of them. The primary reason why is due to the fact that over time, the sensors are going to degrade and this was discussed before. Yes, most models will need to be recalibrated but after a certain amount of times, this is not going to work. Eventually, your model will quit working entirely. So, do yourself a favor and avoid buying one that has been previously owned and used.
q: Even if under the limit, are you still safe to drive?
You are not going to find too many people that will justify driving with any type of alcohol in your blood system. And, we are not about too either. Here is the deal; even if you are technically under the legal alcohol limit, it does not warrant putting yourself behind the wheel of an automobile. This is especially true if you are barely under the limit as the booze in your system is still going to impair your motor skills and cognitive abilities.
q: Can any results you receive be used in court?
In a way, this question plays off of the last one. So, let’s say that you do get pulled over by a police officer and you blew into your own personal breathalyzer and were not over the legal BAC limit. Let’s say you blow into the police officer’s device and are over the BAC limit. Could you then use your own personal readings in court? You probably know the answer to this and that is a big fat no. Look, law enforcement officials are only going to use the best of the best and their readings will always trump yours, period.
q: Is the BAC level the only factor for when a DUI is given?
This right here is further proof that these devices are simply tools and they should not be relied upon to prevent you from getting a DUI. Guess what, even if you are under the legal BAC limit (which is .08 percent in all 50 states in the United States, for the record) you can still be charged with a DUI. The reason for this is if an officer believes that you are impaired to any degree, you can be charged. While this may seem unfair to you, it is the law (though understand that laws will always vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction).