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Intoxalock vs. Smart Start: Which Interlock Provider is Best?

In many states, ignition interlock devices are required or mandated by the court system for alcohol-related offenses. People convicted of driving under the influence, or DUI, are often required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed for a specific length of time. Some drivers may even choose to get a device installed voluntarily to help maintain sobriety.

Ignition Interlock Device Overview

IIDs, which are referred to as breath alcohol ignition interlock providers (BAIID) in some states, are designed to prevent drivers from starting their car if they don’t pass the breath alcohol content (BrAC) test. Drivers blow into the device to test their BrAC, and if they fail they will be unable to start the car until they pass. The devices also periodically retest drivers during most trips, to prevent a sober person from taking the test in place of a driver.


Smart Start


Device Design
  • Full numerical keypad, similar to an older cell phone model
  • Screen requires you to read it while testing, so you would need to look at the device while retesting
  • One button
  • No need to look at the device while driving to operate or retest
Blow Pattern
  • Device uses blow-hum-blow pattern. This is difficult and distracting for many and can lead to lockouts
  • Simple blow-inhale-blow pattern that's easy to master and perform
  • 2,000+ locations, less than half of Intoxalock
  • 5,000+ locations, with more installation centers than any other provider, with 91% of customers within 15 miles of a location
  • Pricing info varies by state, and you must call to get the info for your state
  • $2.50 to $3.50 a day, with an optional device protection plan for $10 a month
  • Intoxalock offers bi-monthly payment options
  • Customer support available 24/7 in multiple languages via email and phone - no chat
  • Educational materials can be accessed in the Intoxalock Mobile app and customers can pay their bill and manage their account there too!
  • Customer support available 24/7 by phone, email, and chat

Comparing Intoxalock and Smart Start: Design

Intoxalock devices feature a one-button operating system, which makes it easy for drivers to operate and test. This simple design enables them to power up, blow, and test using the device without having to look down to read the screen. The possible options are pass or fail, and the device will not allow the driver to start the car until they pass. 

Smart Start devices are a bit more complicated to use and feature a full keyboard. Unlike Intoxalock, Smart Start devices also have a possible result of a “warn” rating. This can mean that your test showed the presence of alcohol, but not enough to result in a failed result. However, these warn ratings can sometimes result in failed re-tests during a trip, which can be inconvenient for drivers.


Intoxalock vs. Smart Start: Blow Pattern

Intoxalock devices have a universal blow pattern, no matter where the user is. This means that all devices use the blow-inhale-blow pattern which is considered the simplest one on the market today. All drivers need to do is insert the mouthpiece and blow, inhale deeply, then blow again without removing the mouthpiece.

Smart Start devices have a numerical keypad and the blow pattern varies by state. Generally, they use the blow-hum-blow method, which requires users to have their lips sealed around the mouthpiece while creating this pattern. This is difficult for many to achieve and can lead to warnings and failures.

Intoxalock vs. Smart Start: Location Comparison

New ignition interlock users may not be aware, but in addition to installation, you must visit a certified technician regularly to have your device calibrated. Calibration ensures your device is measuring accurately, and that it is accurately sharing the results with the state’s monitoring authority.  

It varies by state, but generally devices need to be calibrated every 30 to 60 days. If you miss a calibration appointment, it may impact your suspension period or cause your interlock term to be lengthened. Having a convenient location to visit can make things much easier for drivers with interlock devices. 

With more than 5,000 certified installers, Intoxalock has the most authorized installation locations of any provider. This is great for customers because they can find a convenient shop and not have to travel a long way for regular maintenance. Ninety-one percent of Intoxalock customers live within 15 miles of their closest installation provider.

Smart Start has only about half the number of installation providers as Intoxalock does, so customers may need to travel a bit farther to find one. They do have a high number of international locations, which are included in their total number of just over 2,000 centers.

Intoxalock vs. Smart Start: Pricing and Payment

All ignition interlock devices are leased, not purchased outright. The technology for each device is too pricey for the average consumer, and the devices cost thousands of dollars each. Intoxalock leases devices for $2.50-$3.50 per day, and offers an optional Device Protection Plan for an additional $10 a month. This protection plan covers the cost of a replacement device if your device malfunctions, is stolen, or is damaged in a natural disaster. Intoxalock allows users to pay via an app, on the website, or to mail in checks.

Intoxalock also allows for flexible payment options, giving customers the option to pay bi-weekly if that works better for them. Customers can also pay for all or part of their lease cost in a lump sum.

Smart Start interlock does not publicly list pricing for their devices, but their site mentions that pricing varies by state. Users must call them to discuss their options and pricing is determined individually. This requires additional research on the customer’s part, but Smart Start does allow them to pay bi-weekly also.

Intoxalock vs. Smart Start: Support

Intoxalock has 24/7/365 customer support available from state specialists. They can be reached via chat, email, or phone and will help guide drivers through the process in their state. They can answer any questions about using the device, or help drivers make an appointment or payment.

Smart Start interlock also offers 24/7/365 customer support in multiple languages. They do not have a chat function however - users must email or call for support.