Best Breathalyzers to Stay Within the Limit

Best Breathalyzers to Stay Within the Limit

We’ve all been there. A few drinks after work and we tell ourselves, “I’m fine to drive home,” although deep down, you probably know you shouldn’t.

“It’s okay,” you reassure yourself, “It’s only a twenty-minute journey.”

For millions of Americans, this is a regular dilemma. Should we, shouldn’t we?

Alcohol-related fatalities occur on our roads every 50 minutes, and the saddest part is that they’re entirely preventable.

So why risk it?

The simple answer is that we humans are terrible at perceiving how drunk we are. Even if we feel completely fine, blowing a positive result can have disastrous consequences, especially if you depend on your license for your career.

Removing the guesswork from the equation is a good starting point, and we can do this by understanding how our body deals with alcohol.

Portable breathalyzers help us develop that understanding and enable us to make well-informed, potentially life-saving decisions.

Keys to Finding the Perfect Breathalyzer

Before we dive in, let’s take a minute to discuss exactly what you should be looking for in a breathalyzer.

Sensor Type

There are two main types of sensors used in most at-home breathalyzers.

Fuel Cell

Fuel-cell-based breathalyzers are more accurate, more precise, can provide more consecutive readings, and they last longer. They also don’t need to be calibrated as often, and they tend to last longer. The downside is that they’re usually far more expensive.


If you don’t need incredibly accurate results, you may want to consider a breathalyzer that uses a semiconductor. For most users they’ll work well enough, typically returning a BAC that’s accurate to two decimal places rather than three or more at a cheaper price.

Accuracy and Precision

Even among different breathalyzers within each sensor category, there will be a wide variation between how accurate and precise each breathalyzer is. With different margins of error and the number of decimal places displayed varying between each device, these are two of the most important considerations to pay attention to.


Depending on the type of device you purchase, recalibration may be necessary. Recalibration ensures the internal breathalyzer sensors are giving consistent and accurate readings, which is incredibly important if you’re using your breathalyzer in a professional setting. Some devices need more recalibration than others, so we’ll be sure to point out how often it’s required.

Usually, this involves a small cost, as well as sending your device away for a few weeks at a time. Alternatively, some models allow you to change the sensor itself, at home.

Agency Approval

If you’re buying a breathalyzer in order to ensure that you or your employees comply with various agency regulations, you’ll need to make sure it’s accurate enough to satisfy their requirements. Though not essential, it’s a good shortcut to choosing a device that has been proven to be reliable.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the reviews!

ProductSensor TypeBatteryPrecisionAgency ApprovalRating
BACtrack S80 Professional BreathalyzerFuel cell2x AA Batteries3 decimal placesDOT, NHTSA5
BACtrack Mobile Professional BreathalyzerFuel cellRechargeable3 decimal placesNone4.5
BACtrack Trace Professional BreathalyzerFuel cell2xAAA batteries3 decimal placesDOT and NHTSA4.5
AlcoMate REVO BreathalyzerFuel cell2xAAA batteries3 decimal placesCoast Guard, FDA, DOT and NHTSA4
BACtrack C8 BreathalyzerFuel cell1xAAA battery3 decimal placesNone4
BACtrack Scout BreathalyzerFuel cell2xAAA battery3 decimal placesNone4
AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional BreathalyzerSemiconductor2xAAA batteries3 decimal placesCoast Guard, DOT, NHTSA, and FDA4
BACtrack C6 Keychain BreathalyzerFuel cell1xAAA batteries3 decimal placesCoast Guard, DOT, NHTSA, and FDA4
BACtrack Keychain BreathalyzerSemiconductor1xAAA batteries2 decimal placesNone4

Top 10 Best Breathalyzers 2024

1. Best Overall Breathalyzer: BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer

BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer

Why we like it: Simple to use, professional-grade precision, convenient to carry and does the job in under 10 seconds. What more can you ask for?

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: 2x AA Batteries
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: DOT, NHTSA

If you’ve been hunting around for a breathalyzer, chances are you’ve come across BACtrack.

BACtrack is one of the best-known brands in the breathalyzer space and for a good reason. With superior technology, easy to use interfaces, and incredible reliability, their devices really stand out among the crowded marketplace.

Their flagship pro-model is the S80 Professional Breathalyzer. Uber convenient and straightforward to use, it’s our top pick when it comes to portable breathalyzers. On top of that, all BACtrack devices come with a one-year warranty, so you can have peace of mind that should anything go wrong, you can have it attended to swiftly.


So why do we love it so much? The BACtrack S80 boasts a one-touch operation, making it super convenient and quick to use, especially when you’re on the go.

The reading flashes up in just 10 seconds on an easy to read LCD display, and the device stores your 10 most recent readings in its history, making it easy to keep track of your past performance.

There’s also no app to fumble around with. Simply remove it from the bag, blow into the device, and get your reading in lightning-fast time.

While ‘smart’ devices can be useful, they do add a somewhat unnecessary step to what should otherwise be a simple process, especially if you need to use your phone to obtain your reading.

The downside of all BACtrack models is that they require regular recalibration, however, it’s an important step to ensure your readings remain as accurate as possible.

Compared to other models in the range, the S80 is also a little slow to warm up, but for most of us, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.


This model is highly accurate and comparable to law enforcement grade devices. This is down to the use of BACtracks Xtend Electro-chemical fuel cell technology, a superior method of testing.

The S80 is a professional-grade device, but at such an affordable price point, it’s a wise choice for anyone serious about monitoring their BAC (blood alcohol content).

If you’re a small business owner, the device can be used to monitor and test your employees to ensure compliance with your company policies. At home, you can use this to self-monitor or keep a closer eye on your teenage children.


  • Simple to use
  • Save your last 10 readings with the inbuilt memory
  • DOT and NHTSA approved
  • Precision accuracy
  • One-button operation


  • Annual recalibration is required to maintain performance
  • Higher price point than other devices
  • 10-20 second warm-up time

2. Best Smart Breathalyzer: BACtrack Mobile Professional Breathalyzer

BACtrack Mobile Professional Breathalyzer

Why we like it: If you're looking for fun features and to geek out on stats, this smartphone-connected device is an ideal choice.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: None

Sometimes it seems devices are made ‘smart’ for the sake of it (take the smart toaster as a shining example). This is certainly not the case in this smartphone-compatible device from BACtrack.

The BACtrack Smartphone Breathalyzer was incredibly close to securing our top spot. The reason it was pipped to the post is simply that the app is a ‘nice to have’ feature, but not entirely necessary.


Compatible with just about any smartphone, this device challenges you to guess your BAC before you receive your official results.  Although it’s a fun game to play, it’s a real eye-opener as to how bad we humans are at understanding our level of tolerance.

A wonderfully useful feature is the time to zero function, a timer that will predict how long until your BAC reaches 0.00%.

If you or a loved one has struggled with dependency on alcohol in the past, the BACtrack app allows you to hold yourself accountable by sending real-time samples using video or photo messaging and allowing you to add notes to your readings to identify problem behavior.

But while the app has a ton of useful features, some are, well, odd. If you’re a person who loves to (over)share their daily lives on social media, you can publish your results for the world to see, directly from the app. We are not sure when, or if, this would ever be necessary, but it’s another way you can hold yourself accountable to your friends and family.


Aesthetically, the BACtrack Mobile looks pretty cool. With a majority white body and LED blue light in the mouthpiece, it’s very discreet and won’t draw too much attention when you’re out and about.

The downside? The BACtrack Mobile doesn’t have an onboard screen, so, unfortunately, it cannot be operated without a smartphone.

You may think this isn’t a problem in today’s connected world. But after a heavy night on the town, it’s not entirely unheard of for those who have had a few too many to become separated with their device. At which time, the device would be unusable.


  • Hold yourself accountable by sharing your results with loved ones
  • Integration with Apple Health
  • Track your results over an extended period of time
  • Predict when your BAC will reach zero with the time to zero function
  • Add notes to your readings


  • May encourage oversharing!
  • Requires a smartphone to operate

3. BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer

BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer

Why we like it: More affordable than the BACtrack S80, the Trace is a feature-packed, ultra-portable alternative to the brand’s flagship model

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: 2xAAA batteries
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: DOT and NHTSA


The Trace Professional Breathalyzer is incredibly simple to use, as with all BACtrack devices, they operate with just a single push.

The Trace is designed with convenience in mind. This slimline model is small enough to slip into your back pocket and weighs only three ounces. Simply chuck it into its neat little carry case and away you go. The device also comes with six replaceable mouthpieces, allowing you to share your device with friends and family in a more hygienic way.


Using the same fuel cell technology that hospitals and police use, you can be confident that your results are accurate and will prevent you from a run-in with the law.

If you can’t justify the expense of the S80, the BACtrack Trace is an excellent substitute. The Trace Pro is a professional-grade device on par with the accuracy of the S80—though it will require more frequent recalibration.


  • DOT/NHTSA compliant
  • One-year warranty
  • Easier to carry than the S80
  • Highly accurate


  • Regular recalibration required (every 6-12 months)

4. Best Premium Breathalyzer: AlcoMate REVO Breathalyzer

AlcoMate REVO Breathalyzer

Why we like it: With pinpoint accuracy, and a sleek and lightweight design, this device is perfect for use in a professional environment where accuracy is vital.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: 2xAAA batteries
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: Coast Guard, FDA, DOT and NHTSA

The REVO is the flagship model from AlcoMate, representing the most accurate and reliable breathalyzer in their current line up.


The REVO makes use of highly-accurate fuel cell sensors to give the most reliable readings. In fact, the REVO is so accurate, that it operates with pinpoint accuracy, with a +/- 0.005 margin of error. When you compare this to the +/-0.01 range of REVO’s cheaper alternative, the AL7000, its increased accuracy more than justifies the price.

On the subject of price, the REVO is undoubtedly one of the more expensive devices on our list. But if you’re in a position where accuracy matters (such as for anyone who needs to ensure agency compliance), it’s an investment worth making.


Better still, the REVO is compact and light, more or less the same size as a small smartphone, so it’s super convenient to take out and about with you.

The most significant benefit is that no AlcoMate device requires recalibration. After around 200 uses, simply replace the sensor with a ready to go, pre-calibrated module. This is especially important if you rely on your device for regular use. Sending off your breathalyzer for a few weeks can be an annoyance that AlcoMate devices entirely avoid.

AlcoMate is yet to manufacture a smartphone-compatible device, which is one of the drawbacks of this model. Still, smartphone connectivity may not be a priority for you, especially if you’re using the REVO in the workplace.

Furthermore, it’s not possible to store previous readings within the REVO, so if this is important to you, check out some of the other models on the list which support this functionality, such as our top pick.


  • No recalibration needed – simply change the sensor yourself
  • Pinpoint accuracy with an impressive +/- 0.005 margin of error
  • Lightweight and extremely portable
  • DOT, FDA, NHTSA and US Coast Guard approved


  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t store past readings

5. Best Compact Breathalyzer: BACtrack C8 Breathalyzer

BACtrack C8 Breathalyzer

Why we like it: Used with or without your smartphone, this compact device doesn't compromise when it comes to its wealth of features.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: 1xAAA battery
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: None


One thing to note is that the C8 makes use of BACtrack’s BluFire fuel cell technology. Essentially, this is cutting-edge tech, which delivers professional-grade accuracy, and some of the closest results to police-caliber devices.

The C8 is also smartphone compatible and works in conjunction with the BACtrack app to deliver a ton of handy information about your readings. If you’re above the legal limit of 0.08%, you can even call an Uber directly from the app.

What this breathalyzer has over the BACtrack Mobile, however, is that it doesn’t need a smartphone to operate. Instead, the onboard LED screen will deliver your results directly from the device, which is perfect if you don’t want to be fumbling around with your phone every time you want to check your BAC.


If size is a concern, you won’t have any issues with the BACtrack C8. This pocket-sized device fits in the palm of your hand, without compromising on functionality.

Although it’s not as small as the BACtrack C6 keychain breathalyzer, it makes up by offering a higher degree of accuracy. And while we’re comparing the two, the C8 displays your ‘time to zero’ countdown directly on the device, perfect if you’re looking to rely less on your smartphone.

As with most of the Smart BACtrack devices, the C8 looks incredibly sleek and stylish. Better still, its small and discreet, so you can check your levels without drawing too much attention to yourself.

If you’re a social butterfly, the C8 comes with 3 removable mouthpieces so you can share it among friends or family, without sharing any of the nasties.


When it comes to price, the C8 is incredibly affordable and definitely won’t break the bank. However, the BACtrack Trace Pro can be bought for almost the same cost. For that, you are getting a device with a much higher degree of accuracy (though it’s not as compact), so it’s worth keeping that in mind. The C8 is perfect if you’re looking for something low-key yet feature packed to use on the go.


  • BluFire Tech makes this device on par with professional-grade devices
  • Share your results with friends and family
  • Pair with your smartphone for on the go analytics
  • Rely less on your smartphone by using as a standalone device.


  • Slightly expensive, especially when the BACtrack Trace Pro can be bought at a similar cost

6. Best Budget Fuel Cell Breathalyzer: BACtrack Scout Breathalyzer

BACtrack Scout Breathalyzer

Why we like it: Discreet and understated, if you're looking for a low-cost professional-grade device from a reputable brand, the Scout is it.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: 2xAAA batteries
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: None

BACtrack pitches this device as the most affordable breathalyzer in their range, but it’s so much more than that.

The Scout is part of BACtrack’s professional line-up, meaning it has been put to the test against devices used by law enforcement, and can compete on every level.


If you’re looking for something low-key, the Scout is both sleek and discreet. Encased in an all-black shell means you won’t attract too much attention if using it in public. It’s also incredibly power efficient, with just one set of batteries lasting 1,000 tests.

One of the best features is its size. Smaller than an iPhone, you can carry this with you everywhere you go, in your purse or bag, with minimal fuss.

From powering up, the Scout will deliver your result in lightning speed; from start to finish, you can have your results in under 10 seconds. Most models take at least 10 seconds to warm up, so if speed is important to you, you should seriously consider the Scout.


Results are delivered to 3 decimal places, so it’s highly accurate, which we would expect nothing less from a professional-grade device.

The downsides? Well, the Scout doesn’t connect to your smartphone. Whether or not that is a big deal is an entirely personal preference. If you ask us, smartphone compatibility is a neat feature to have, although it’s not entirely necessary.

One complaint we have about the Scout is that the flow sensor is a little sensitive. The flow sensor alerts you if you’re not providing an adequate sample.

Just keep in mind that all BACtrack devices will need to be recalibrated at some point (check out our guide below for further details). Although it’s an additional cost, recalibration is vital in ensuring the ongoing accuracy of results.


  • Professional-grade device
  • Extremely affordable
  • Compact – smaller than an iPhone
  • Fast response time (receive your results in under 10 seconds)


  • Not smartphone compatible
  • Sensitive flow sensor

7. Best Low-Maintenance Breathalyzer: AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer

AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer

Why we like it: No recalibration needed! Simply replace the sensor at home by yourself in less than a minute. Perfect if you rely on your device for regular use.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Semiconductor
  • Battery: 2xAA batteries
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: Coast Guard, DOT, NHTSA, and FDA


The AL7000 makes use of AlcoMate’s patented PRISM technology, which for you, means that recalibration isn’t necessary. Rejoice!

AlcoMate claims that the process of recalibration is flawed, as it does nothing to address the degradation of the sensors, which occurs through frequent use.Instead, the AL7000 allows you to completely replace the sensor with a pre-calibrated module, which takes just a few minutes.


To get the most accurate results, it’s essential to use your device correctly. One of the most common “user-errors” experienced when utilizing a breathalyzer is insufficient airflow through the device.

The AL7000 will monitor the volume of air passing through, letting you know if it is insufficient enough to gain an accurate reading.

This model does suffer a little on accuracy when compared to it’s bigger brother, the AlcoMate REVO. Still, for home use, the AL7000 is more than sufficient.


Although the AL7000 comes at a premium price point, the look and feel of the device, particularly the sleek metallic finish, assure you this was made to a high standard. This goes some way to justify the premium you are paying over similar models.


  • No recalibration needed – simply change the sensor module yourself
  • US Coast Guard approved
  • Airflow monitoring to ensure accurate results


  • Expensive
  • Not as accurate as the AlcoMate REVO

8. Best Keychain Breathalyzer: BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer

BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer

Why we like it: With a sleek design with smartphone compatibility, this low-cost device is a perfect compact keychain breathalyzer

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Fuel cell
  • Battery: 1xAAA battery
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: Coast Guard, DOT, NHTSA, and FDA

Recent improvements in breathalyzer technology mean you can now carry this high-tech gadget directly from your keychain.


The benefit of the C6 is that it is smartphone compatible. By connecting to the BACtrack app you can keep track of your readings, test your perception and estimate your’ time to zero’ (the time until your BAC falls to 0.00%)

And if you’re looking for more stats and get a bit nerdier, check the app on your phone for a wealth of information, which enables you to track past readings and make notes against each one.


The best part? It’s a top performer when it comes to accuracy. That’s right, the C6 boasts being able to go toe to toe with some of the more expensive models on the market, at a fraction of the cost.

Don’t believe us? Check out this Fox News segment where researchers pitched the C6 in a head-to-head battle with police-caliber devices and matched its performance every step of the way

The smartphone app can sometimes be a little temperamental. But the advantage the C6 has over the Mobile Pro from BACtrack is that it can be used as a standalone device.

If you’re just looking for quick and simple reading, the LED display on the device will tell you precisely what you need to know. Without the phone, it’s just a regular breathalyzer.


Unlike the original keychain breathalyzer from BACtrack, this looks a lot more professional and less like a toy.

Another difference is that the C6 is powered by a single AAA battery, compared to the rechargeable battery featured in the Mobile Pro. The benefit of this is that you can simply purchase a new battery if you’re caught running low, instead of having to waste time charging it up, or worse, making a stupid decision.


  • Battery-powered – never get caught with a low battery again
  • Can be used completely separate from your smartphone
  • Very discreet
  • Inexpensive - almost half the price of BACtrack mobile
  • Competes with pro-grade devices


  • App can be a little unreliable

9. Best Budget Breathalyzer: BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer

BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer

Why we like it: A no-frills, easy to carry breathalyzer, this device provides reliable results at a rock-bottom price.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Semiconductor
  • Battery: 1xAAA battery
  • Precision: 2 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: None

A simple, uber-portable pocket-sized device, the BACtrack Keychain breathalyzer is perfect if you’re looking for a device that does a good job and nothing more.


This compact device builds on BACtrack’s superior technology to give you BAC readings on the move. Attached directly to your keychain, this device will provide you with instant, on the spot feedback in around 5 seconds.

It’s also incredibly affordable, which is a big plus if you’re just looking for something that gets the job done.


At such a low price point, it’s no surprise you have to make trade-offs somewhere.

The most obvious is the accuracy. While it is not on the same level as some of the more expensive models on our list, that’s okay. The device will also only show up to two decimal places on its LCD display.

Another downside of this device is it’s not really discreet, so if you’re keeping an eye on your habits or just want something a bit more subtle, this flashy looking keychain is probably not your best bet.

Like all BACtrack devices, you’ll still need to calibrate the keychain breathalyzer regularly. Given the cost of recalibration is almost on par with the cost of the machine itself, you may find it more economical to simply purchase a new one.

If you’re looking for something with a bit more functionality, while retaining the same level of portability, we would recommend the newer C6 Model.

Educating yourself and understanding your level of tolerance is a worthwhile investment. If you’re not wanting to spend a ton of money on one of the professional-grade breathalyzers on the list, we recommend the BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer.


  • Test within seconds from your keychain
  • Small and portable
  • Inexpensive


  • Indiscreet
  • Still requires expensive calibration
  • Display only shows results to 2 decimal places

10. Rofeer Digital Breathalyzer

Rofeer Digital Breathalyzer

Why we like it: An entry-level breathalyzer that won't break the bank, this small and compact device can go with you anywhere.

Editor’s Rating:

At a Glance

  • Sensor Type: Semiconductor
  • Battery: 3xAAA batteries
  • Precision: 3 decimal places
  • Agency Approval: None

Low cost doesn’t have to mean poor performance. This pocket-sized device is small enough to carry in your back pocket, and the fast warm-up and quick delivery of results make it a quick way to get instant feedback.


Even though the Rofeer comes at a low price point, it is packed full of useful features. One unique setting that none of the other devices on this list have is that the Rofeer allows you to display your alcohol levels in 6 different measurement units, commonly used in countries around the world. For that reason, it’s perfect for chucking in your suitcase when traveling overseas to ensure you stay on the right side of the law.

Coloured LED lights make it easy to see when you’re close to the limit. Blow green, and you’re good to go, but the LED will start to go red as you approach unsafe levels to give foolproof feedback on your current condition. If that wasn’t clear enough, audible beeps will warn you at each reading. If you hear two beeps, it’s probably best to call a taxi.

The Rofeer also comes with ample memory storage, allowing you to keep track of your last 32 readings.


Aesthetically, the Rofeer is not as well-made as some of the other devices on our list. When you compare it side by side with a BACtrack device, for example, it’s quite easy to see which one is the cheaper model.

Rofeer is relatively unheard of in the breathalyzer space, which is something you should consider before purchasing, as it could affect ongoing support should something go wrong with your device.

Despite its drawbacks, if you’re looking for a no-frills personal device to use at home, the Rofeer is a good entry point.


  • Shows your alcohol level in 6 globally recognized measurement units
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to read color and sound indicators
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Inbuilt power saving


  • No regulatory approval
  • Relatively unknown brand

The Complete Guide to Breathalyzers

Why You Should Buy a Breathalyzer

I know we all like to think of ourselves as responsible adults who should know when enough is enough, but there are some very valid reasons for owning a personal breathalyzer device.

Personal breathalyzers are designed for monitoring purposes, to help us stay accountable and to help us to make smart, informed decisions. Driving after consuming any alcohol, regardless of your BAC, is ill-advised. Don’t do it!

Help Save Lives

Arguably the most significant reason you may choose to invest in a device is down to their life-saving potential.  There is a fine line between reality and perception, and knowing when you are feeling a little ‘buzzed’ compared to drunk is a lot harder than you may think.

A 2016 study proved that we often determine our level of intoxication based on those around us. The drunker those around us are, the more sober we feel.  Making the decision to get behind the wheel under these circumstances is incredibly dangerous. Breathalyzers help you to make smart choices when our judgment may be otherwise impaired.

Avoid Expensive Fines—or Worse

Law enforcement’s tolerance to driving above the limit is zero, and rightly so. Although most states have different DUI laws, the punishments for being caught driving under the influence can be severe and life-changing. In some US States, fines can exceed $6,000, and that’s a best-case scenario. At worst, repeat offenders could land jail time, community service, or revocation of their license.

What Does BAC Mean?

After drinking, alcohol works its way through your body before eventually ending up in your bloodstream. The percentage of alcohol in your blood is referred to as the blood alcohol concentration, often abbreviated to (BAC), and is quoted as a percentage.

A reading of 0.10% simply means that your blood contains 1 part alcohol, for every 1,000 parts blood.

Your BAC measurement does not tell you exactly how much alcohol you have consumed.

Instead, it measures the effect alcohol will have on your body. For that reason, the same quantity of alcohol consumed by two different people is likely to produce entirely different results.

Amongst other things, your BAC can be affected by:

  • How many drinks you have consumed
  • The amount of time over which you consumed those drinks
  • Your body weight
  • Whether you have eaten

The legal BAC limit across all US states is 0.08%. Blow more than this, and you’ll find yourself in deep trouble.

How Do Breathalyzers Work?

The most accurate way to measure your BAC is through a blood test. However, a more straightforward method, and the way most of us are familiar with, is through the use of a breathalyzer.

Alcohol quickly enters into our bloodstream after drinking, and some of that alcohol enters our breath via our lungs as it makes its way through our bodies. The job of a breathalyzer is to measure the content of alcohol in your breath and use that figure to estimate how much alcohol is in your blood. Using a ratio of 2,100:1, the breathalyzer calculates that for every 1 milliliter of alcohol in your breath, there are 2,100 milliliters in your blood.
man using breathalyzer in car

How Do I Use a Breathalyzer?

Though the exact method of using each model varies, there are some commonalities among all breathalyzers. To ensure accurate results, follow these steps:

  1. Wait at least 20 minutes after eating, drinking, smoking or using mouthwash before using a breathalyzer—failing to do this can invalidate your test results.
  2. Power your device on and blow into the mouthpiece for about five seconds, or until your device indicates a result.
  3. Read the result: and keep in mind that even if you’re below the legal limit, any amount of alcohol in your blood can reduce your reaction time and make driving unsafe.
  4. Wait at least 15 minutes before retesting your BAC—again, failing to do this can lead to inaccurate results.


After a period of use, most breathalyzers will need to be recalibrated. This is because the sensors inside the device that measure the level of alcohol in your blood can become ‘saturated,’ leading to inaccurate readings.

The process of calibration ensures your breathalyzer is measuring BAC levels accurately, so it’s incredibly important to know when and how to calibrate your device.

If you buy a model from one of the more popular brands, such as BACtrack, calibration is a reasonably straightforward process and can be done through their website. You can learn more about the BACtrack recalibration process here.

The process of recalibration isn’t free and can cost up to $40, depending on the brand of your breathalyzer. You’ll also need to send your device back to the manufacturer for them to perform the process, which can be a little inconvenient, especially if you use it regularly.

But fear not! If you simply can’t cope without your device for that length of time, consider purchasing an AlcoMate device like the AlcoMate REVO Breathalyzer.

One of the most significant advantages of AlcoMate breathalyzers is that they do not require recalibration. Instead, you can simply replace the internal sensor with a newly calibrated module by yourself.

How Often Should You Calibrate Your Breathalyzer?

How often you need to recalibrate your device depends on the brand, the type of technology, and how often it is used.

As a rule of thumb, most manufacturers recommend you recalibrate your device each year, to ensure maximum levels of accuracy. If you are using your device frequently, you may need to recalibrate sooner. If you start to notice inconsistent results with your breathalyzer, it’s a good sign that recalibration may be required.

Most manufacturers also recommend you use your device at least once per month, to prevent the internal sensors from drying out and giving inaccurate readings. Always check the manufacturer’s requirements to determine what is best for your device.

Do You Need a Smartphone Compatible Device?

Everything is ‘smart’ these days, and breathalyzers are no exception. It’s now possible to connect your smartphone to some models via Bluetooth. Whether or not this is important to you is for you to decide. Still, there are some really great features associated with owning a smart device that you should at least consider before deciding on which equipment to purchase.

Some devices allow you to guess your BAC before taking a real-life reading, helping you to confirm whether your perceived level of intoxication is, in fact, accurate. Trust us, you’ll be shocked as those numbers flash up on the screen.

One feature we love about some of the app-enabled devices is that they will give you a real-time prediction of when your BAC will return to 0%, known as ‘time to zero.’ This is a fantastic addition to help you make educated decisions before getting behind the wheel.

Note that some devices, such as the BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer, cannot be operated separately from your smartphone, which is worth keeping in mind if you’re someone who doesn’t carry your phone everywhere you go.

Personalization and tracking of past results are handy methods to help keep you accountable.

Agency Approval

If you’re looking for the most accurate and reliable results, it makes sense to use technology that law enforcement, rehabilitation centers, and professionals use in their professional capacity. Agency-approval isn’t required, but it can be a quick shortcut to a device that’s been proven to work well.

Some devices use technology that has been approved by the Department of Transport (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so you can have confidence that the results being shown meet the highest of standards. Some devices, like the AlcoMate Premium AL7000 Professional Breathalyzer have been approved by just about every agency imaginable.

It’s important to note that being approved by these agencies simply means it performs to their strict standards, much like their own tests. However, negative results from a personal breathalyzer will not override results given by law enforcement.

My Breathalyzer Says I Am Under the Limit, Can I Still Drive?

It should be noted that most manufacturers of personal breathalyzers clearly state they are to be used for informational purposes, and that they should not be used as a tool to determine whether you are fit to drive.

While it’s incredibly useful to know your blood alcohol content, we would always recommend that after consuming any amount of alcohol, you avoid driving altogether.
woman using breathalyzer in car

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a personal breathalyzer is a wise investment that can help us make smart, educated decisions and develop our understanding of how alcohol affects our bodies.

While breathalyzers will give us the knowledge we need to make these decisions, it’s up to us to act responsibly. If you often find yourself treading the fine line between drunk or sober, or you’re simply curious to learn about your body’s chemistry, a breathalyzer is a great buy.

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