Last updated: August 10, 2021

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Welcome to our big breathalyser test 2021. Here we present all the breathalysers we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best breathalyser for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should pay attention to if you want to buy a breathalyser.




Summary

  • When you drink alcohol, a gas exchange takes place through your alveoli, whereby oxygen and ethanol mix and are exhaled. A breathalyser can then measure your blood alcohol level based on the concentration of ethanol in your breath.
  • When buying a breathalyser, you should make sure that the breathalyser has good accuracy in measuring your blood alcohol level. There are some breathalysers that give false information about your blood alcohol level and are therefore counterproductive.
  • When using a breathalyser, you should make sure that you have not consumed any alcohol for the last 20 minutes. Residues of alcohol in the mouth can falsify the result. Chewing gum, mouthwash and cigarettes can also affect the pomilla reading.

The Best Breathalyser: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a breathalyser

How does a breathalyser work?

When you have drunk or eaten alcohol, a gas exchange between the air and the alcohol takes place in the alveoli.

A breathalyser can be a good party gag, e.g. by testing who can drink the least alcohol. However, it should not be a competition. (Image source: unsplash.com / Kelsey Chance)

When you inhale, the alcohol in your bloodstream is absorbed by the fresh air and released to the outside when you exhale.

The function of the breathalyser is to determine the alcohol content of your breath and to indicate the alcohol level on the display.

To do this, you blow into the breathalyser's blowpipe. Part of the air is directed into a reaction chamber where the alcohol level is analysed. This value is then shown on the LED or LCD screen of the breathalyser.

For whom is a breathalyser suitable?

A breathalyser is especially useful if you go out in the evening and have your car with you. You may have had one or two beers and are no longer sure whether you are still allowed to drive. If you use the breathalyser and have a reading of over 0.5 per mille, it is better to take a taxi or bus home.
Did you know what happens if you exceed the 0.5 per mille limit when driving?

If you drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.6 to 1.1 per mille, you will be fined 500€ and have your driving licence revoked for one month. You will also receive 4 points in Flensburg. If your alcohol level exceeds 1.1 per mille, you will receive 7 points in Flensburg, a fine or a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

In addition, your driving licence will be revoked for at least 6 months. If your blood alcohol level exceeds 1.6 per mille, you will also have to pass a medical-psychological examination to get your driving licence back.

A blood alcohol level limit of 1.6 per mille also applies to cyclists

We generally advise against drinking alcohol with the intention of driving or cycling afterwards, especially as your own state of mind or fatigue caused by alcohol can impair your fitness to drive even if you have not reached the blood alcohol limit.

Of course, a breathalyser can also be used by anyone who is simply interested in how he or she reacts to alcohol. At a party, a breathalyser can be a fun gag as long as it doesn't turn into a competition.

What is the accuracy of a breathalyser?

The accuracy of a breathalyser depends on how much you want to invest. The cheapest breathalysers for 10-20 euros are often quite inaccurate and therefore give poor information about whether you are still allowed to drive or not.

Driving under the influence of too much alcohol can be very expensive and, in the worst case, can end with a custodial sentence. (Image source: pixabay.com / 3839153)

Good breathalysers should not have more than 0.05‰ deviation from the actual blood alcohol level. However, you often have to pay a little more for these breathalysers. But there are exceptions, because sometimes there are also cheap breathalysers that deliver very good results.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true, because there are alcohol testers that cost 50€ and more, but give strong deviations from the actual blood alcohol level.

How much does a breathalyser cost?

The cost of a breathalyser can vary greatly. For example, there are some good breathalysers for 20€. However, most good breathalysers cost between €30 and €130. The most expensive but also the most professional and reliable breathalyser is made by Dräger and is used by the police worldwide. It costs around 380€.

Decision: What types of breathalysers are there and which is right for you?

We have determined the following types of breathalysers:

  • Blow tube
  • Hand-held meter
  • stationary
  • Measuring devices
  • Disposable alcohol tester
  • Alcolock

In the following paragraphs we would like to go into more detail about these types and present their advantages and disadvantages. This way you will be well informed about which type of breathalyser is suitable for you.

What are the characteristics of a blow tube for alcohol testing and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

The alcohol tester is a small, transparent tube that contains various chemicals. These change colour as soon as you blow into the tube and ethanol is present in the breath. The chemicals consist of sulphuric acid and potassium dichromate, which are supplemented by the unreactive carrier substance silica gel.

The orange-red potassium dichromate turns into a green chromium sulphate due to the oxidised ethanol. You can read off the alcohol content from a line. The tubes should be disposed of in the residual waste after one use.

What are the characteristics of a hand-held alcohol tester and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

These alcohol testers are the best known and are also used by the police. You blow into the mouthpiece of the breathalyser and your blood alcohol level is displayed on the LED or LCD screen. There is no chemical reaction, but a change in potential between two electrodes.

The more alcohol you have in your blood, the greater the change in potential. These breathalysers performed very well in a product test from 2018, because most breathalysers have a maximum deviation of only 0.05‰ from a police tester. However, you can only get the actual blood alcohol level by taking a blood sample and a subsequent laboratory analysis.

Did you know that the blood alcohol level from a hand-held measuring device has no legal effect? This value is invalid in court. Therefore, a second test is taken at the police station, which is valid in court. This test is done with a stationary measuring device or a blood test.

What are the characteristics of a stationary alcohol tester and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

This breathalyser is usually used if you have already had to blow at a police checkpoint and had a blood alcohol level above 0.5. This breathalyser uses an infrared spectroscopy. Your blood alcohol content is measured in a chemical and electrical way. The values from the stationary measuring device are very accurate.

What distinguishes a disposable alcohol tester and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

You can buy disposable alcohol testers at the pharmacy. However, they can only be used once. Therefore, this breathalyser is only recommended for drivers who rarely drink alcohol and do not want to rely on their state of mind. If you drink alcohol often and want to check whether you are still allowed to drive, we recommend a hand-held alcohol meter.

What are the features of an Alcolock alcohol meter and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Alcolock is a breathalyser that is placed in the car by the manufacturer and must be used every time before driving. If you blow into the breathalyser and are found unfit to drive, the car cannot be started and an immobiliser is activated.

Alcolock was a legal requirement in France in 2012.

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate breathalysers

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate breathalysers. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a particular breathalyser is suitable for you or not. In summary, these are:

  • Measuring ranges
  • Accuracy
  • Mouthpieces

Measuring ranges

The measuring ranges of cheap breathalysers are often limited to a maximum value of 2 per mille. However, this is absolutely sufficient for fun use.

If your breathalyser indicates that you have more than 0.5 per mille, or you no longer feel fit to drive, you should rather take a taxi or bus home. Otherwise you could endanger lives! (Image source: pixabay.com / stevepb)

In addition, we assume that they will not reach a blood alcohol level of more than 2‰, as they are in a stupor from 2‰ and have to expect severe restrictions up to unconsciousness.

The expensive and more professional breathalysers can measure up to 4‰. Here is a small overview of the states of mind with alcohol:

per mille value Effects
0.1 - 0.5 per mille Relaxed mood
0.5 - 1.0 per mille Cheerful mood
1.1 - 2.0 per mille Intoxicated state
2.0 - 3.0 per mille Stunned state
3.0 - 5.0 per mille Paralysed state

Accuracy

The accuracy indicates the deviation of the breathalyser value from the actual blood alcohol value. The tolerance range of a deviation is ±0.05 per mille.

Almost every breathalyser has a deviation, even the hand-held ones used by the police.

When using a breathalyser with a mouthpiece, make sure that the mouthpiece is cleaned after blowing before someone else blows. Cleaning the mouthpieces can be very annoying in the long run, so we recommend that you buy a breathalyser with replaceable mouthpieces. You can change the mouthpieces at will and the cleaning effort is less.

Facts worth knowing about breathalysers

Which measuring methods are there for breathalysers?

A distinction is made between these sensors:

  • Semiconductor sensor
  • Electrochemical sensor
  • Spectrophotistic infrared transmitter

Semiconductor sensor

By blowing into the semiconductor sensor, oxygen molecules enter the breathalyser. If you have drunk alcohol, you also blow ethanol into the breathalyser. The ethanol introduced increases the conductivity of the oxygen, which is how the alcohol level is determined.

Breathalysers with semiconductor sensors cost between 10 and 200 euros. However, these breathalysers are not admissible as evidence in court. This type of pomilletester is susceptible to substances such as carbon monoxide in smokers and acetone in diabetics and can falsify the values.

You should always make sure that the battery of these breathalysers is full, otherwise the alcohol reading could also be incorrect.

Electrochemical sensor

This type of breathalyser is used by the police worldwide. With this type of sensor, you blow into the breathalyser, which then analyses the substances present in the breath.

The electrolytes in the sensor measure the ethanol content and then give the alcohol level. Together with a blood test, this procedure is valid as evidence in court.

Spectrophotometric infarot sensor

This method uses the principle of infrared spectroscopy. Here, a light source emits different wavelengths in the infrared spectral range. A radiation detector measures the light intensity. If the inhaled air contains ethanol, the light intensity decreases. This makes it possible to determine the alcohol level.

How do I use a breathalyser correctly?

When using a breathalyser, make sure that you do not take the breathalyser test immediately after consuming an alcoholic beverage, as alcohol residues can remain in the mouth and thus falsify the result. You should therefore make sure that you wait at least 20 minutes after consuming your drink in order to obtain the most accurate result possible.

You should bear in mind that it can sometimes take some time for the alcohol content to settle in your blood. It is therefore possible that your blood alcohol level is still rising even though you have not drunk any more alcohol.

Chewing gum, mouthwash and cigarettes can falsify the result. Therefore, you should refrain from chewing gum, mouthwash and cigarettes before the alcohol test.

Image source: pixabay.com / bridgesward

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