After a few drinks, it can be difficult to tell whether you’re under or over the legal driving limit. Considering the fact that hundreds of people are injured or killed annually by impaired motorists — and that a DUI will set you back thousands of dollars — it’s best to err on the side of caution. That being said, shelling out a a little cash for a personal breathalyzer is only a drop in the bucket when compared to fines, legal fees, and a criminal record. Fortunately, there are plenty of devices on the market designed to help you better gauge your blood alcohol levels. Below are our favorites.
Best overall — BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer ($125)
The BACtrack S80 is one of the most advanced breathalyzers on the market. With a precision BAC range of 0.000 to 0.400, this unit is more than capable of letting you know whether you’re legally capable of driving and when you should potentially check in at the nearest hospital.
Seeing as you are dealing with inebriated humans, the more streamlined the breathalyzer process the better. Thankfully, the BACtrack S80 is incredibly easy to use. Simply press the start button, wait for the unit to count down from 10, and then blow into the mouthpiece for five seconds. Within three seconds, your BAC reading will be available on the LED display. The unit includes six extra mouthpieces as well, meaning you and your bar buddies can each have your own.
The most important specification when it comes to breathalyzers is, without a doubt, accuracy. The BACtrack S80 has a margin of error of only .005, making it one of the most precise portable units on the market. Still, it is a bit bulkier than some of the other portables out there. It measures 5.6 inches in length and 2.3 inches in width, and since it weighs 5.6 ounces, the unit may be better suited for your glovebox, purse, or backpack than your pocket. Regardless, when it comes to precision, this device is hard to top.
Best smartphone-enabled — BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer ($98)
The BACtrack Mobile is the breathalyzer for app and wearable enthusiasts. The Bluetooth-enabled device allows you to connect most Android and iOS devices, including the Apple Watch. Once connected, you can utilize the free BACtrack app, which lets you store a digital drinking log or hail an Uber if you’ve quaffed a bit too much on a particular evening. The next time you’re at the watering hole, you can even refer to the app to remember whether you liked a specific libation.
One of the best features of the unit, however, is the ZeroLine application. Once you’ve completed your breathalyzer test, this handy tool estimates when your BAC level will return to 0.00. Unlike the other units on our list, the BACtrack Mobile also uses a rechargeable battery. There are cheaper and more precise units on the market for the price, however, from an integration standpoint, the BACtrack Mobile is as good as it gets. Read more here.
Best portable model — BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer Portable ($26+)
A breathalyzer that you can store on your keychain is about a sensible and convenient as it gets — just ask anyone who’s opted for the lightweight BACtrack Keychain. To perform a quick test, simply power on the device, wait approximately 12 seconds, and then blow into the built-in tube for a minimum of five seconds. Your results will then appear on the device’s backlit display within seconds.
The foldable mouthpiece can be extended or stowed, however, one still has to question just how sanitary a mouthpiece on your keychain really is. Regardless, the unit is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and can be stowed in your purse or pocket if you’d like to be more discrete. The unit is also available in purple, green, blue, or black, rendering it the perfect companion for those looking to coordinate with their outfit before hitting the bars.
The main drawback to the Keychain, however, is its accuracy. This unit has a margin or error .02 percent, which is enough leeway to put you over the limit in certain situations.
Best budget breathalyzer — Vastar AB120 Professional ($20)
Sometimes you don’t need a breathalyzer with the ability to call you a ride or estimate when you should be able to drive a vehicle. No, sometimes a budget device will do. With a margin of error of just 0.01 percent, the Vastar AB120 Professional is the perfect option for individuals in the market for a basic breathalyzer.
While you are saving a few bucks by opting for the budget option, you certainly aren’t doing yourself any favors when it comes to ease of use. Once the unit is powered on, it takes about 15 seconds to warm up (you’ll hear a beep when it’s ready). Afterward, simply blow into the mouthpiece and await your results. If you’ve drunkenly managed to mess up this process, you’ll have to wait another three minutes before you can take the test again, meaning impatient tipplers may need to look elsewhere.
Nevertheless, at just 2.2 ounces, the unit is as light as any other model on our list, which makes it convenient for stowing on the go. If you’re looking for a breathalyzer that lacks bells and whistles, this unit will do just fine.