The best breathalyzers for personal use
- The best personal breathalyzers are compact and give fast, accurate blood alcohol content (BAC) readings to within 0.001%.
- Of all the breathalyzers out there, the BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer is the best because it remembers your previous tests and uses police-grade sensor technology.
Between open-bar work parties and getting through visits with grating family members, it’s hard to blame anyone for wanting to throw back a few drinks to take the edge off during the holidays. Unfortunately, we cannot always tell if we are in good enough condition to get behind the wheel of a car. Thankfully, there are a number of top-quality personal breathalyzers available to help you avoid driving under the influence (DUI).
Before we begin talking about our personal breathalyzer picks, it is important to note some limitations. First of all, and most importantly, your ability to drive is completely unrelated to a BAC number. If you feel impaired, you should not drive. Period.
On the other hand, if you feel perfectly okay to drive, you should wait at least half an hour after you last eat or drink anything before testing your BAC because your BAC can increase even after you stop drinking since your body keeps absorbing alcohol. If you still do not feel impaired, then a breathalyzer can provide you an objective measurement of whether you can legally drive or not.
That said, the breathalyzers on the market these days vary wildly in their accuracy and reliability. For the most part, you do get what you pay for. The more expensive models tend to be more accurate. But, as you have heard from countless news stories, even the best devices used by law enforcement officers can register false positives.
We pored over thousands of user and expert reviews and ratings to find the best personal breathalyzers. Our picks were chosen based on their accuracy, track record with reviewers, and ease of use.
Here are the best breathalyzers you can buy:
- Best breathalyzer overall: BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer
- Best high accuracy breathalyzer: BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer
- Best breathalyzer you never have to recalibrate: AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer
- Best breathalyzer that works with your smartphone: BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer
- Best affordable breathalyzer: AlcoHAWK Ultra Slim Digital Breathalyzer
Updated on 10/21/2019 by Monica Chin: Updated prices and formatting.
The best breathalyzer overall
If you are looking for an accurate blood alcohol content reading from a device that fits in your pocket, the BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer is the best.
BACtrack uses its own patented, police-grade “Xtend Fuel Cell Sensor Technology” in most of its new breathalyzers, including our top pick, the Trace Professional Breathalyzer. The tech has a number of benefits including virtually no false positives, longer battery life, faster warmup time, sensitivity for high BAC testing, long-term reliability, and accurate, consistent results.
The Trace offers precise results for BAC levels from 0.000 to 0.400%. It also comes with the two required AAA batteries. To operate the breathalyzer, you press the start button. It then counts down from ten. Once it gets to zero, you blow continuously and steadily until it displays your BAC on the LCD screen. The unit remembers your previous ten BAC readings.
The BACtrack Trace is 4.25 by 1.875 by 0.625 inches and weighs only three ounces. It comes with a one-year warranty. Most importantly, this breathalyzer is approved by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Wirecutter liked the BACtrack Trace because it is about $30 less expensive than the company’s high-end S80 Pro, and it is much lighter and smaller. Plus, it offers BAC-range detection similar to the more expensive model. Gazette Review also took a look at this unit and found it was incredibly accurate for its price.
In its review, Busted Wallet gave this breathalyzer a score of 9.3 out of 10 because you get professional quality at a reasonable price, it’s simple to use, and the readouts are accurate. However, the reviewer didn’t like that you need to calibrate it every 6 to 12 months.
Around 73% of the user reviews of the BACtrack Trace on Amazon are for five stars. A few buyers compared this model to several other devices and found that this is the most accurate option on the market. One of the reviewers was a nurse who relies on the measurements for her job. However, a verified purchaser noted that the device can be a little sensitive in it readings.
Pros: Lightweight, accurate, easy-to-read display
Cons: Requires occasional maintenance
The best high accuracy breathalyzer
The BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer costs a bit more than the other models on our list, but it also provides the most accurate measurements.
Like the other BACtrack devices, the S80 Professional Breathalyzer utilizes the proprietary Xtend Fuel Cell Sensor Technology and comes with a one-year warranty. It also shares many similarities with our top pick, the BACtrack Trace, including a four-digit LCD display, BAC range of 0.000 to 0.400%, DOT and NHTSA approval, and the same one-touch operation.
The main difference is that BACtrack rates this breathalyzer as slightly more accurate. However, the accuracy comes with a more expensive price tag. Plus, this unit is slightly larger than the Trace at 2.3 by 0.8 by 4.8 inches and a weight of 5.6 ounces. Also, it runs on two AA batteries instead of AAA.
Several expert review sites list the BACtrack S80 Pro as the top breathalyzer available. Wirecutter liked how portable, easy to use, and accurate this model is and found that it came the closest to matching the results on police equipment of all of the units they tested.
Wiki.ezvid.com also ranked it as the best breathalyzer because it comes with six mouthpieces (and replacements are affordable), fits in your pocket, and has a fast refresh time. Healthbestreviews listed the S80 at the top of its list of the best portable breathalyzers because of its accuracy, consistent performance, and compact size.
On Amazon, there are 800 five-star reviews of the BACtrack S80 Pro. Users like that it provides long-term accurate readings. There are some cautionary tales, though. The Owner’s Manual for the BACtrack S80 Pro states that you should send your unit in every 6-12 months to be recalibrated. This service costs about $25. If you fail to send it in regularly, the readings will be inaccurate, and eventually, you will get a recalibration failure, which basically means it’s time to buy a new device.
Pros: Easy to use, portable, the most accurate option according to many sources
Cons: Expensive, requires regular calibration
The best breathalyzer you never have to recalibrate
If the idea of having to regularly send your breathalyzer in to get recalibrated sounds unappealing, consider the AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer with PRISM Technology.
Almost every breathalyzer manufacturer has its own special proprietary “technology” that sets its breathalyzers apart. For the AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer, it’s “PRISM Technology.” AK GlobalTech patented this technology to fix the recalibration problem.
With many models, you have to send your device in every year or so to get it recalibrated. If you don’t, it may stop working. With the AlcoMate AL7000, you can replace the sensor module yourself, which costs about the same as recalibration services.
The other features are pretty similar to the models on the previous slides: 4-digit LCD results, one-button operation, a one-year warranty, and DOT approval. The AL7000 requires two AA batteries (included) to operate, and the unit is relatively small at 4 by 2 by 0.8 inches and 3.4 ounces. The device comes in a heavy-duty hard case with a discreet pouch, hand strap, and car adapter (in case your batteries die on you).
TopProducts chose the AlcoMate AL7000 as its top choice because it is approved by the DOT and the Coast Guard. Also, it comes with a car adapter, is easy to use, and the reviewer found it to be quite accurate. However, the reviewer didn’t like that the car adapter cord is fairly short and that diabetics have been known to get false positives.
Meanwhile, Wirecutter appreciated that this model came with a user-replaceable module, but it lost points because it wasn’t as accurate as the BACtrack S80 Pro.
Of the buyers who reviewed the AlcoMate AL7000 on Amazon, 84% gave it a rating of four or five stars. Reviewers liked how accurate the readings are when compared to other, more-expensive alternatives. They also found it helpful that there is a meter that lets you know how many times you have used it so you know when you will need to replace the sensor.
One buyer recommended that you take a moderately deep breath, hold it, and then breathe slowly into the device to get an accurate sample from your lungs.
Pros: Comes with a car adapter, does not have to be recalibrated by manufacturer
The best breathalyzer that works with your smartphone
If you already have your smartphone with you, the compact BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer will transform it into a breathalyzer.
Currently, BACtrack is the top name in breathalyzers so it’s only fitting that the company would pioneer the subcategory of smartphone breathalyzers with the Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer. Like other products from BACtrack, this model has an Xtend Fuel Cell Sensor and the highest accuracy rating (along with the S80 Pro) that BACtrack offers.
There are several features that set the BACtrack Mobile apart. ZeroLine technology gives you an estimate of when your BAC will be at 0.000%. The device has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that you charge using a mini-USB port. Lastly, it is quite small at 1.8 by 0.6 by 2.8 inches.
All of the top tech websites have reviewed the BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer. CNET gave it a rating of 7 out of 10. They like how compact it is and that it estimates how long of a wait you have before you’re sober. But, they really didn’t like how much the social media features revealed.
PCMag liked that you can track your drinking, it’s easy to use, and estimates your time until sobriety. Again, they didn’t like that it is ripe for abuse through social media or elsewhere. Gizmodo‘s experts enjoyed playing around with the app but didn’t like how expensive the device is.
Around 79% of the reviewers of the BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer on Amazon gave it a positive review. Users liked that it has many of the same benefits of breathalyzers in general. It lets you know if you are too drunk to drive to avoid associated legal repercussions. One user was dissatisfied because they could not get the app to download to their newer Android smartphone.
Pros: The most compact option on our list, accurate, estimates time until sober
Cons: May encourage competitive drinking through its social media connectivity
The best affordable breathalyzer
If you are living on a tight budget and want to drink responsibly, the AlcoHAWK Ultra Slim Digital Breathalyzer may be your best bet.
To ensure it captures a deep-lung sample, the AlcoHAWK Ultra Slim Digital Breathalyzer has an electronic airflow sensor. It is accurate within +/- 0.01% at 0.02% solution for a BAC range of 0.00 to 0.40%. Unlike the other devices in our guide, this unit only displays two digits on its red LED screen. The AlcoHAWK Slim Digit operates on two AA batteries.
The only expert site we could find that had tested the AlcoHAWK Slim was the Gadgeteer. They performed a thorough review of the device and found that the silver plastic housing was durable and made for a light unit (3.6 ounces.) They also liked that it is easy to get a reading by pressing the front button, waiting 60 seconds for the device to get ready, and blowing for about five seconds.
More than 52 reviewers on Amazon have given the AlcoHAWK Ultra Slim a positive rating. Buyers were impressed with how accurate and reliable it is for the low price. There are several comments about how long it takes to warm up (60 seconds versus 10 seconds for the other models in this guide.) It takes even longer when the batteries are low.
Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight
Cons: Takes a long time to warm up, questionable accuracy