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Best breathalysers 2018

We rate ten breathalyser drink-drive kits for morning after testing

After a night out, most of us will arrange transport, but when will you be safe to drive again?

Home breathalysers are designed to help ensure you’re under the legal drink-drive limit when you take the wheel the morning after a night of drinking and celebrating. There’s a wide choice, between basic semi-conductor devices and sophisticated fuel-cell products, costing from a few quid to over £100. Which of 10 best protects you and your licence? 

How we tested them

Accuracy is key, as your licence is on the line if a unit reads low, and the device is not doing its job if it is consistently high. We did five tests using certified samples at the limits for Scotland (0.22mg of alcohol in one litre of breath) and England and Wales (0.35mg/l).

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Sensitivity was rated at a low 0.09mg/l level, plus we looked at how units recover after a high alcohol sample (0.6mg/l) by taking alternate readings between the two.

Solutions were checked against a police-spec Draeger breathalyser after each set of tests. Ease of use, instructions, alerts and cost using makers’ or online prices were all rated.

Reviews

AlcoSense Excel

Price: £99.99  Contact: www.alcosense.co.ukRating: 5 stars

Like the more expensive AlcoSense product, this brand new fuel-cell device is a breeze to use. It has the same high-quality casing and the display is a step above the rest, plus it’s easily seen while blowing.

Alcohol limits for different countries can be set and instructions are comprehensive, plus they explain why the read-out is set 20 per cent high to comply with European standards and potential under-reading over time.

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Using factory settings to access the true reading, it proved accurate at all levels. A great blend of price and performance. 

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AlcoSense Pro

Price: £149.99 Contact: www.alcosense.co.ukRating: 4 stars

Spend £50 more than on the AlcoSense Excel, and you get quite a bit extra with this Pro model. It’s another fuel-cell breathalyser, and like its stablemate it has a lead to update firmware via USB, and clear colour-coded alerts to warn you not to drive within 20 per cent of the set limit.

But the Pro adds a Blow Coach to ensure the breath sample will provide the most accurate reading, plus it gives an estimate of when you’re likely to be under the limit. You can also set a reminder alarm to take a retest. It topped our accuracy tests by a small margin from the Excel.

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AlcoDigital Platinum

Price: £149.95 Contact: www.alcodigital.co.ukRating: 4 stars

Whether a breathalyser uses the more accurate fuel cell or a semi-conductor to measure alcohol on the breath, it needs to be recalibrated regularly. Most makers recommend this is done at least once a year, but with this AlcoDigital Platinum the fuel-cell cartridge sensor can be changed by the user – handy if you can’t afford to be without your device.

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As our emphasis was on accuracy, it was no surprise that this fuel-cell unit completed the podium. It’s accurate, but the AlcoDigital can’t be set to different drink-drive limits – although the UK figures are clearly spelled out in the instructions.

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AlcoSense Elite

Price: £59.99 Contact: www.alcosense.co.ukRating: 4 stars

If a fuel-cell breathalyser is beyond your budget, this semi-conductor Elite is a good buy. It couldn’t match the accuracy of AlcoSense’s fuel-cell units, but it was best of the rest by some margin and, importantly, would over read.

And there are few compromises elsewhere, as the measurement units can be changed and you can input the drink-drive limit for where you are. It provides visual and audible alerts if you are close to, or over, the limit, plus the unit can clean the sensor to maintain accurate readings for longer.

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AlcoDigital AL7000

Price: £79.95 Contact: www.alcodigital.co.ukRating: 3 stars

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Another AlcoDigital unit that allows users to change the breath alcohol sensor, but this is a semi-conductor.The AL7000 is supplied with a hard case and a car adaptor charge lead. This is handy, but you can’t set different drink-drive limits. However, once again the instructions make them clear for the UK and France.

It proved reasonably accurate during our test, but there are more reliable devices here at this price.

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AlcoDigital Platinum Lite

Price: £99.95 Contact: www.alcodigital.co.ukRating: 3 stars

This is another fuel-cell device, but this time it can’t be changed by the user and needs to be sent away for recalibration, like most units on test.

As with the pricier Platinum model, this has an integrated mouthpiece that slides out from the top of the casing.

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It proved reasonably accurate, but there were more consistent devices – and that hurt its overall chances. Plus, we would have liked to have been able to set the relevant drink-drive limit. 

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Alcoscan ACE AL2600

Price: £27.54 Contact: www.amazon.co.ukRating: 1 star

The best of the budget online devices, although that’s no reason to buy this. It was one of two products on test not to use a mouthpiece, which creates potential for a variable breath sample depending on where the unit is held. Across the two legal limits it was way off the desired readings. Its saving grace was that it consistently read high.

There are no legal limits mentioned in the instructions – which incidentally are really poorly translated – and the display is difficult to read in the dark. 

Buy it on ebay

VicTsing Mini Digital Keychain Alcohol Tester

Price: £11.99 Contact: www.amazon.co.ukRating: 1 star

Given the variations in the way the body absorbs alcohol, these devices are primarily aimed at morning after use, so we’d question the wisdom of having a breathalyser on your key ring.

And looking at the test results, we’re not sure this is a sensible buy at all. It was significantly out at the legal limits – although, like the Alcoscan, it read high. Uniquely it said users should rinse their mouths with water before testing, which risks affecting the sensor with moisture.

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OFTEN Breath Alcohol Tester

Price: £13.99Contact: www.amazon.co.ukRating: Not rated

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Amazon’s listing claims this is a ‘police digital breath alcohol tester’. It looked nothing like our £7,500 control unit, and performed nothing like it, either.

Its gloss black finish and bright display mask one of the worst devices on test, as unlike other budget units its readings varied wildly. At the England and Wales limit it gave a reading either side. It was high at the Scottish and low levels, and in the strong alcohol test it locked out after our first attempt. This makes you question the four-star rating Amazon users give it.

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ALC Nose Breathalyzer Compact Party Tester

Price: £19.99Contact: www.ebay.co.ukRating: Not rated

Getting a result was a lottery as this Alc Nose unit has no mouthpiece. Even when we found a spot for it to take a reading, it failed to take one the next time we tried from the same position.

We could see where the intake was, which would not be the case if you were blowing into it – when we got a reading it was way off where it should have been. No limits are mentioned and the display includes a misleading wine glass graphic. Best thing about this breathalyser is the batteries; they worked but the unit didn’t. 

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Verdict 

There’s no doubt you get what you pay for with these breathalyser kits. AlcoSense has the edge here, with the choice down to your budget. The new Excel provides a great combination of price and performance. For the next step up, look no further than the Pro. Our pick of the AlcoDigital units, the Platinum, completes the podium. 

  1. 1. AlcoSense Excel
  2. 2. AlcoSense Pro
  3. 3. AlcoDigital Platinum
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