Breathalysers review 2005

Can you rely on a personal breathalyser to tell when you're over the legal limit?
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  • Updated:9 Dec 2005



In brief

  • On test: six personal breathalysers priced up to $120.
  • While this was a small trial, based on its results we wouldn't recommend buying any of the six tested models.
  • If all you want to know is whether you're over or under the limit, the two disposable models err so far on the side of caution that they'll tell you you're over after about one drink, whether you really are or not.
  • If you want a more precise result, you won't get it accurately from any of the four electronic models tested. While they tend to give a more reliable 'over or under' reading than the disposable ones, you'd need to use one fairly often to make it worth the money -- otherwise a cab might be cheaper.
  • There might be more accurate personal breathalysers out there, but finding one you can trust could be pretty hit-and-miss.

This is a summary: download the full report (PDF) here.

What we tested

  • We looked for portable breathalysers that we felt the average consumer would consider buying. For example, we didn't test wall-mounted units such as those found in pubs and clubs. We also didn't test car ignition interlock units, or the more sophisticated portable models like those used by police, even though some such units are available to the general public (at a cost of several hundred dollars or more).

The tested models from left to right: the reusable FIT 168R, ALCOSCAN AL-2500, SAFE DRIVE (with keyring) and ALCOSCAN AL-5000 (with pouch); and the disposable BREATHSCAN and REDLINE.

Features table

Brand / model (in alphabetical order within groups) Where you can buy it Price ($)*
Devices that give results to two or more decimal places
FIT Digital Alcohol Tester FIT168R
49.00 (D)
SAFE DRIVE Personal Alcohol & Gas Detector (A)
Devices that give just an 'over or under 0.05' result
Petrol stations, auto shops,
4.30 (E)
REDLINE Self Test Breathalyser (B)
Petrol stations,
4.95 (F)

Table notes

* Recommended or average retail, as advised by distributors in September 2005, unless noted otherwise.

(A) Gave one false negative, measuring someone with a BAC of 0.057 as 0.03–0.04.

(B) Also marketed as Check 05.

(C) Also for sale on other websites.

(D) The price we paid in July 2005.

(E) $13 for a pack of three.

(F) $59 for a pack of 12.



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