The Complete Breathalyzer Buying Guide

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The Complete Breathalyzer Buying Guide

As most people know, breathalyzers detect the amount of alcohol a person has in his or her bloodstream. However, what most people don't know is that breathalyzers can be purchased for personal use; they are not only found in the presence of police authorities. These can be vital to a business or party host who wishes to make sure that people aren't leaving who are too intoxicated to drive. Breathalyzers can be for individual use, so a person can bring along the device when he or she goes out to dinner or a bar. This can ensure that he or she is not over the legal limit before getting behind the wheel of a car. Breathalyzers are available at some electronics and specialty stores, as well as online. eBay is a useful place to buy breathalyzers, though, as a wide variety is available and the expertise of many different vendors can be utilized.

How Breathalyzers Work

According to the FBI's crime rates, there were 1.41 million arrests for DUI in the United States in 2010. Along with the stigma of being arrested for DUI, there are also severe penalties. These can include jail time, loss of license, and financial burdens. All states have set a minimum percentage of blood alcohol level, and communities give their police forces breathalyzers to measure this. The breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in the alveolar air, which is directly related to the percentage of alcohol in the blood. The alveolar air is the air contained within the membranes of the alveoli of the lungs. As a person breathes into a breathalyzer, the device measures the percentage of alcohol contained in his or her breath.

How Many Drinks Will Bring a Person over the Limit

This question cannot be answered with a single answer. There are many factors, such as weight and food consumption, that will affect the answer. A single drink is defined as a shot of hard alcohol, a 12-ounce beer, or five ounces of wine. There are tables that can loosely define blood alcohol content, and it does not take a lot of alcohol to exceed the limit of 0.10 percent or 0.08 percent, depending on the state. For instance, a 200 lb person may be at the limit with five drinks, whereas a person who weighs 120 lbs may be over the limit with just three drinks.

History of the Breathalyzer

There have been many different ways to detect alcohol on human breath since the late 1800s. These have included blowing into balloons or other air sacs and then detecting if any alcohol is in the container. In 1954, the modern breathalyzer was invented. The man who invented it, Dr. Robert Borkenstein, was a member of the Indiana State Police and later became a professor at Indiana University.

How to Begin Looking for a Breathalyzer

The breathalyzer is a tool to ensure safety of the driver and those around him or her. It can also ensure that the person does not spend a lot of time without a license or responsible for large fines. They can come in keychain models that are less expensive than the police-grade models; however, both are significantly cheaper than the fines accrued from drunk driving and the loss of income from not having a license.

Personal Breathalyzers

These are breathalyz ers that use semiconductor oxide sensors. These can be accurate, but can also show a false positive for diabetics or people on low calorie diets. These models show up to the hundredth of a percent, and can lose accuracy at very high BAC levels. However, if a user is looking for a personal item to tell whether or not he or she is over the limit, these make a fine option. They do have a shorter shelf life than the professional models, but their cost makes up for the limited lifespan. BacTrack is a very popular brand of these breathalyzers.

iPhone Breathalyzers

These are small units that snap into the charging and data port of an iPhone. They have a tiny hole that allows a person to breath into the unit. The unit does not always communicate with the iPhone; sometimes, all the iPhone does is provide power to the unit. The size of this breathalyzer enables it to be stored in a pocket, purse, or backpack, without being too much of a burden.

Keychain Breathalyzers

These breathalyzers are small and portable. They come in a variety of different colors and the user can try to match the breathalyzer's color to a keyring or purse in an effort to be as discreet as possible. These breathalyzers are meant for personal use, and would be ideal for taking to a social setting to determine whether or not the person is capable of driving. These breathalyzers aren't always as accurate as the professional grade models, but can give a good estimate of the blood alcohol level of the user. A digital model is ideal, especially late at night, as the readout display is easy on the eyes.

Professional Breathalyzers

These models are the kind that are used by law enforcement agencies around the country. These units use fuel cell sensors to detect the BAC of a person, and have a few key upgrades over the semiconductor oxide sensors. The shelf life is longer; they provide accurate results for thousands of tests. CMI is a popular manufacturer of these units.

Tabletop Breathalyzers

These breathalyzers provide the most accurate results along with the longest times between calibrations. These breathalyzers use spectrophotometer technology. This method uses infrared technology to measure individual molecules for the most accurate readings. These units are not really meant for individual users. A business that wants to ask permission to test its patrons before letting the patron drive might have a reason for such a unit. Otherwise, these units are the primary domain of law enforcement agencies. Alco - Sensor is a major manufacturer of these units.

The following is a table that will help identify some common brands.

Cost Range

Personal Breathalyzer

Professional Breathalyzer

Tabletop Breathalyzer

Low End

Various models meant for iPhone models

BacTrack Select S 80

CMI Intoxilyzer 5000

High End

BacTrack Select S 30

CMI Intoxilyzer SD -5

Alco - Sensor RBT IV


There are many different models and manufacturers, and it can be difficult to tell which category some of them would fall into. The key to keep in mind is what type of sensor is being used in the breathalyzer. If the user knows that, it is easy to figure out whether the unit is meant for personal or professional use.

Miscellaneous Items to Keep in Mind

There are three things that the user should keep in mind while buying a breathalyzer. These are crucial components of any search, and two will provide peace of mind as well as information needed to make sure the product is as accurate as possible. The third will provide safe and hygienic usage of the product.

FDA Approval

One thing that has to be made sure of is that the user is not purchasing a novelty grade breathalyzer. If a unit has FDA approval of 510(k), it is fit for human use. It also means the FDA has inspected the model for accuracy as well as reviewed the product information that the manufacturer has produced. The user can be assured that the breathalyzer has been reviewed by an appropriate agency, that the device is safe for use, and that it is comparable to at least two other similar products on the market.

Calibration of Devices

One of the things to keep in mind when purchasing a breathalyzer is how often it must be calibrated. A personal breathalyzer has to be calibrated every 400 to 500 uses. A professional grade breathalyzer only has to be calibrated every 1000 uses. Personal breathalyzers are just fine for use by a single person or by a small group of family and friends. However, for circumstances where the device will need to be utilized frequently, the accuracy of a professional level breathalyzer is preferred. All devices should be calibrated at least every twelve months, and there are online sites that specialize in the calibration.

Mouthpieces for Breathalyzers

These are key components of any breathalyzer setup. This is especially true if multiple people will be using the same unit. The mouthpiece portion of a breathalyzer resembles a little straw that the user blows into. The mouthpiece should be changed frequently, as germs can be found on a straw after use.

How to Buy a Breathalyzer on eBay

The easiest way to find a breathalyzer on eBay is to utilize the search bar on the main page. After your search results appear, you can further narrow your results down with various filters, such as price range, new or used items, and even how far away the item is located from your location. There is a specific category for breathalyzers on eBay. It can be found by going through the Consumer Electronics category, followed by the Gadgets and Other Electronics category. You can also browse the various sellers involved with breathalyzers, and ask them questions related to your breathalyzer search.

Rating and Review of Sellers

Each seller has a rating and a review that can tell you how the seller relates to individual buyers. While looking for a breathalyzer, you can read reviews and ratings and get an idea of each seller from individuals who went through the same process that you are going through. After your transaction takes place, you should write your own review and rate the seller, so that future buyers can get an idea of how your transaction went.


The decision to carry a breathalyzer is a good one. It shows responsibility on the part of the user. There are many different options for breathalyzers. These can include personal breathalyzers, which can attach to a keychain or iPhone to make use a bit easier. Professional breathalyzers can be used by people who have diabetes or are on a diet, as these give the most accurate readings. They are also an option for people who do not wish to have to calibrate their units as often. Tabletop breathalyzers, while interesting, are not necessarily a good fit for personal users. People looking for breathalyzers should make sure that the units are FDA approved, and how often and where that the user can have the unit calibrated. As noted, eBay is an excellent place to find breathalyzers and speak to vendors who can answer questions.

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