When choosing the best breathalyzer, you want to make sure that it’s reliable (battery life and accuracy), that it’s easy to use(especially after a couple of drinks), and that it’s portable enough to take out and about with you so you have it when you need it.
Considering these three factors, we compiled a list of the top 7 best breathalyzers on the market. While the BacTrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer came out on top due to its precise accuracy and the fact that it’s approved by both the Department of Transportation and the FDA, all of the breathalyzers on this list have the ability to quickly and accurately read your blood alcohol content within 10 to 15 seconds. Of course, no matter which breathalyzer you end up with, remember: don’t drink and drive! It doesn’t matter if you drive the best electric cars or an old junker, stay safe.
Top 7 Best Breathalyzer Compared
#1 BacTrack S80 Breathalyzer
Award: Top Pick/Best Overall
WHY WE LIKE IT: Because of its police grade accuracy, the BacTrack S80 is approved by both the DOT and FDA for personal use. If certified accuracy and simplistic operation are what you’re after, your search ends here.
Read Full Review: BacTrack Trace Breathalyzer
- Police grade accuracy to the third decimal place
- Approved by the DOT and FDA
- Simple, one-button operation
- Some users report unit fails after a couple hundred reads
- May need recalibration, which costs $24.99
- Most expensive unit on our list
If you’re looking for a professional breathalyzer with precision and accuracy that rival those used by law enforcement, the BacTrack S80 Breathalyzer has got you covered. It uses the same technology that police officers, hospitals, and rehab clinics rely on to detect trace amounts of alcohol in the blood and give accurate readings up to the third decimal place. This is a professional breathalyzer that can also be used for personal use.
BACtrack’s Xtend Fuel Cell Sensors have an extended sensor life compared to other traditional sensors, which allows BACtrack Pro Series breathalyzers to maintain their accuracy for up to thousands of tests. However, over a long period of time and with repeated usage, the unit may require recalibration every 6 months (unlike Alcomate models) to make sure the readings are correct. Also, note that the most accurate results are obtained 15 minutes after consuming alcohol. They work by measuring the concentration of alcohol molecules in the user‘s breath. And While the manufacturer does offer this service, it comes at a cost of $24.99, and a one year warranty. Nevertheless, it operates on a two AA battery, which we find to be a better size since it’s more commonly used in other products. We buy the best cars so we should have the best radar detector in your car.
#2 BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer
Award: Honorable Mention/Best Value
WHY WE LIKE IT: While the BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer is highly accurate and offers an easy to read display, the thing we like most is the ability for the breathalyzer to call an Uber directly from the app. This makes it a great choice for safety conscious social drinkers who want to make sure they’re making smart choices on a night out.
Read Full Review: BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer
- Easy to read display
- App estimates when BAC will return to 0.00%
- Connects to Smartphones (compatible with Apple, and Android)
- Some users report inconsistent results at lower BAC levels
- App doesn’t always work
While the BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer isn’t DOT approved like the BacTrack S80, it does have some stand-out features that helped it earn its place as an “honorable mention.” If you find that your BAC is too high when using the C6 model, you can call an Uber right from the app. It also estimates when your BAC will return to 0.00%, so you can get a general idea of when the alcohol will be out of your system.
Of course, safety always comes first and we don’t recommend relying on this technology to tell you when you’re OK to drive. When in doubt, always use the UBER feature. To make things even more convenient and user-friendly, you also have the option to connect it to your phone through Bluetooth, so your results show up right on your phone’s screen. This breathalyzer also comes with a one year warranty. And whether you drive the best motorcycle or car, you should have this handy.
#3 BACtrack Trace Breathalyzer
Award: Best Portable Breathalyzer/Easy to Read Display
WHY WE LIKE IT: Like the BACtrack S80, the BACtrack Trace Breathalyzer utilizes highly accurate police-grade technology (approved by DOT and NHTSA), but it comes in a smaller portable size that makes it more pocket friendly than our #1 pick.
- Utilizes police grade technology
- One button operation
- Comes in a small, portable size (4.25×1.875×0.625”)
- Battery cover pops off
- Some users report it loses accuracy over time
- Requires AAA batteries (not the most common size)
Accuracy is undoubtedly the most important feature of a breathalyzer and the BACtrack’s got it. It utilizes the same technology that police officers rely on with a convenient one-button operation. Its small size makes it ideal for carrying with you in your pocket or handbag so you always have it near you when you need to measure your BAC. It is also approved by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation & National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a breath alcohol level screening device.
This BACtrack trace professional model runs on two AAA batteries, so when it starts losing power, you can quickly and easily replace them and get your breathalyzer back up and running without the need for charging. This and the best car battery charger will help keep you out of trouble.
#4 BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer
Award: Best Breathalyzer App/Rechargeable Battery
WHY WE LIKE IT: The BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer offers something our top 3 don’t have: a rechargeable battery and a pocket friendly slender size… It also boasts professional grade readings and delivers results directly to your phone and can track trends over time so you can monitor your alcohol intake.
Read Full Review: BACctrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer
- Fully compatible with most smartphones and Apple watch
- Built-in rechargeable battery
- Estimates the time for your BAC to return to 0.00%
- Some users report inconsistent output
- Can interfere with phone’s Bluetooth connectivity
- Unlike top 3 picks, you need to remember to charge it
The thing that drew us to the BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer is its compatibility with all types of smartphones, from Apple to Android to Google. It also integrates with the Apple watch, so you can easily and quickly see your results on any of your devices.
Unlike our top 3 picks, this unit is fully rechargeable, which means you’ll save on battery cost. However, it also means you need to remember to charge it up with some regularity.
One thing worth noting, however, is that the breathalyzer can interfere with your phone’s Bluetooth connectivity. Some users report that if you have both in a Bluetooth-enabled vehicle, they’ll fight for connection and your phone might become disconnected. At least you don’t have that problem with the best car subwoofer.
#5 Rofeer Digital Blue LED Screen Portable Breathalyzer
Award: Best Budget/Easiest to Use
WHY WE LIKE IT: The Rofeer Digital Portable Breathalyzer is not only one of the most user-friendly but it is the most budget friendly on our list. In addition to a one button start, it also changes colors, from green to yellow to red, and sounds an alarm to alert you when you’re near or out of your BAC warning zone.
Read Full Review: Rofeer Digital Blue LED Screen Portable Breathalyzer Review
- Easy to read display with colors and sounds
- FDA Certified
- Comes in a compact size (4.8” x 2.2” x 0.75”)
- Requires 3 AAA batteries
- Not DOT or NHTSA certified
The Rofeer Digital Portable Breathalyzer boasts a user-friendly one button start in a compact design. After powering on the device and waiting at least 15 seconds (the same warm-up period as several others on this list), the breathalyzer is ready to use.
In addition to the ability to display six different measurement values, it can log your last 32 readings, so you can keep track of trends and monitor your BAC over time. It doesn’t only log your results, though. The Rofeer breathalyzer also makes interpreting your results extremely easy. If your BAC is lower than your warning value, the screen turns green and makes a “di” sound. When your BAC is too high, the screen turns red and the alarm sounds for 15 seconds to alert you. It is as easy to use as the best ice scraper and both will keep you safe.
It does require AAA batteries, but the unit includes energy-saving technology that automatically powers the device off after 15 seconds without operation. Plus it’s very, very affordable.
#6 BACtrack Element Breathalyzer
Award: Best Price for DOT Certified/Easy to Use
WHY WE LIKE IT: The BACtrack Element Breathalyzer has the same DOT and NHTSA approved technology as our #1 and #3 picks, but with a more budget-friendly price. In addition to the smaller price tag, the Element comes in a smaller-than-a-smartphone size.
Read Full Review: BACtrack Element Breathalyzer Review
- Professional grade accuracy
- Easy to read display with colors and sounds
- DOT/NHTSA compliant
- Users report that it can be difficult to trigger a reading
- Can overestimate BAC levels
Like several others on the list, the BACtrack Element Breathalyzer has the same professional grade accuracy as the professional breathalyzers that law enforcement and hospital staff use. It’s also approved by the Department of Transportation (and the NHTSA) as an effective means to read your BAC level.
However, users do report that sometimes it can be difficult to trigger a reading. You have to make sure you’re blowing consistently and with enough pressure so that the breathalyzer can register. Sometimes this takes a few tries. It’s good to have in the car, along with the best jump starter.
#7 JASTEK EK-90 Breathalyzer
Award: 3 Month Rechargeable Battery
WHY WE LIKE IT: The JASTEK Breathalyzer takes the guesswork out of making responsible decisions by flashing and beeping when your BAC is too high. It makes the breathalyzer a good choice for those who need a little more help interpreting safe BAC levels.
Read Full Review: JASTEK EK-90 Breathalyzer
- Can adjust the reading to 6 different units of measure
- Has warning alerts
- Auto power off feature to save on rechargeable battery
- Users report inconsistent readings
- Requires a small warm-up period before readings are accurate
Making responsible decisions can be more difficult when there’s alcohol in your system, and although the JASTEK Breathalyzer doesn’t have the ability to call an Uber, it simplifies things for you by flashing and emitting a warning sound when there’s too much alcohol in your system. Since the JASTEK does the work for you, it takes the guesswork out of BAC interpretation.
Unlike others on the list, the JASTEK can also adjust to 6 different units of measure for various geographical areas, including the US, Europe and Asia. Keep in mind that there is a small warm-up period required in order to get accurate readings. The manufacturer recommends waiting 15 seconds after turning the unit on before trying to measure your BAC level. It is one of the best car accessories you can have.
How We Decided
We listed only breathalyzers that were highly accurate due to advanced, professional-grade technology that could give you consistent reading over time (some are even DOT or NHTSA certified). We also focused on ease of use and how the BAC information was transmitted. Some of the breathalyzers display test results on their own screen, while others transmit the information to your smartphone via a dedicated app.
We also considered battery life, which is vital when working with any type of technology. While most of the breathalyzers on the list run on replaceable batteries (AA and AAA), there is some that include a rechargeable battery too.
The last thing we looked at was any additional features that could help make your life easier and safer, like Bluetooth compatibility and the ability for the breathalyzer to call an Uber for you if your BAC registered too high to drive.
Another popular option that just missed our list is the AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Alcohol Tester. The AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer uses oxide semiconductor alcohol sensor modules in combination with PRISM Technology. The AlcoMate comes with a one-year warranty and combines professional reliability with an extremely easy-to-use one-touch operation.
Breathalyzer Buying Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
When choosing a breathalyzer, first and foremost, you have to focus on accuracy and ease of use. Once you’ve found one that will give accurate readings without a lot of effort, you can figure out which additional features, like the ability to call an Uber or tell you how long it will take for your BAC to return to 0.00%, are important to you.
Perhaps the most important feature to consider when choosing a breathalyzer is its accuracy. When you’re trusting a device to tell you what your blood alcohol content is, you want to make sure that it’s giving you correct and consistent readings. Choose a breathalyzer that’s gone through rigorous testing to ensure accurate results. You can also test the breathalyzer on your own by using it when there’s no alcohol in your system to see if it gives you a 0.00 result consistently.
- Ease of use
It’s also essential to consider how easy the breathalyzer is to use. While complicated technology can present a problem even when alcohol isn’t involved, it can be almost impossible to figure out after a couple of cocktails. Since the accuracy of any breathalyzer relies on proper usage techniques, it’s important that the breathalyzer you choose is user-friendly. Many of them operate with just one button and have an easy-to-read on screen display or the option to display your results on your smartphone. Others make sounds to alert you when your BAC is too high, which takes the guesswork out of figuring it out on your own.
When it comes to breathalyzers, size does matter. You want something that’s convenient and small enough to slip into your pocket or your handbag when you’re out having a few drinks. If it’s too big, it will get left behind and, no matter how accurate it is, it’s useless if it’s at your house.
What does a breathalyzer measure?
A breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in your lungs, which correlates directly to the amount of undigested alcohol in your blood. If a breathalyzer registers that you’re over the limit, there’s absolutely no reason why you should be behind the wheel of a car.
Are personal breathalyzers accurate?
The top-rated personal breathalyzers can detect trace amounts of alcohol and are accurate to within + or - 0.005, which is comparable to the accuracy of the breathalyzers used by law enforcement. If you enjoy a few drinks on a night out and want to ensure you’re not over the limit when you get behind the wheel, consider investing in a person breathalyzer.
How long can a breathalyzer detect alcohol?
Breathalyzers can detect trace amounts of alcohol in your blood within 15 minutes of your first drink and until all of the alcohol has been completely metabolized. After a night of heavy drinking, alcohol can remain in the blood for more than 10 hours. Make sure you didn’t just take a sip and attempt a measurement. If so, you’ll end up with a false positive because of the residual alcohol in your mouth.
Learn More About Breathalyzers
On Gadget Review, you can learn about the range of breathalyzers available in the market; and our exhaustive comparisons and opinion pieces on personal breathalyzers will help you distinguish between devices that use semiconductors and those that use a fuel cell sensor. The BAC fuel cell sensor technology breathalyzers are ideal for situations that require the most accurate results, like clinical or roadside alcohol tests, or BAC monitoring.
Read breathalyzer reviews to learn about devices used by law enforcement and hospitals. Find out about features of breathalyzers by brands such as FDL, Protocol, and Breathkey. Most breath testing devices for measuring breath alcohol levels feature a compact design for easy portability, some can even be slung on keychains; the mouthpieces, which may be of the folding type, allow easy capture of the breath while keeping external gases and air out.
The best breathalyzers can be recalibrated and feature easy-to-read LCD monitors that return results upon one-touch activation. Alcomate breathalyzers do not need calibration because their models do self-calibration. Breathalyzers can vary in cost, and the really sophisticated tabletop breathalyzers can cost more than a thousand dollars. Gadget Review lets you know if the breathalyzer of your choice has been approved by the FDA for human use.