Best OBD2 Scanner: Complete Buying Guide and Review 2020

Want to get the best OBD2 scanner / best car code reader and reduce trips to auto repair shops? Then you’ve landed on the right page.

For most people, their vehicle is more than just a transportation device. Do you know that with an OBD2 scanner, you can get to know your car better than ever?

But which is the best OBD2 scanner for my car?

Find and buy the right one in the comparison chart below.

Editor’s Top 3 Picks of Best OBD2 Scanner

Best for DIYBest for BeginnersBest for Pros
BlueDriver
BlueDriver
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autel al319
Autel AL319
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autel mk808
Autel MK808
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Customer Rating
4.64.6 / 5
4.64.6 / 5
4.44.4 / 5
PriceBlueDriverAutel AL319MK808
Product Dimensions2.2" x 1.9" x 1"63" x 17.7" x 92.5"14.7" x 11.7" x 4.8"
Item Weight2.06oz6.2oz2lbs
Type

DIY OBD2 Scanners

Basic OBD2 Code Readers

Professional OBD2 Diagnostic Tools

Read & Clear All Codes
CEL Reset
VIN
Live Data
Freeze Frame
I/M Readiness
Engine Diagnostics
Mode 6--
Repair Reports--
ABS/SRS Diagnostics--
Transmission Diagnostics--
TPMS Reset--
Oil reset----
EPB/SAS/BMS/DPF----
Key Coding----
Compatibility

Android And Windows.

OBD2 compliant 1996 and newer US-based models.

OBD2 and CAN

OBD2 supported 1996 US and newer models.
OBD2 supported 2000 EU based models

ConnectionBluetoothCordedBluetooth

Want to read more?

Let’s dive into the details now and learn why these are the best OBD2 Scan Tools.

Best OBD2 Scanner / Best Car Code Reader

OBD2 Scanners can diagnose and fix problems in your car’s engine. They display check engine light codes when there’s something wrong with the engine and some also suggest fixes.

Some advanced OBD2 scanners also let you do much more than just fix CEL (check engine light) codes. They can handle ECU programming, IMMO, DPF, etc. You will need to get the best OBD2 scanner and you are good to go.

Now, let’s look at the detailed review of the scanners!!

BlueDriver LSB2 Pro OBD2 Scanner – Editor’s Pick

BlueDriver
BlueDriver LSB2 Pro OBD2 Scanner
4.44.4 / 5
BlueDriver is an expert problem-solving Scanner, authorized for Apple and Android devices. In this device features of a sophisticated scanner are coupled with the marvelous technology in your smartphone, giving you a unique tool to count on.
Bluedriver is the best OBD2 scanner for many reasons. The biggest one being it supports Bluetooth. It performs almost all the basic and some above-average functions as well.
Extensive Repair Solution:

Bluedriver scanner has around 30 million fixes in the database that provides you with an accurate and complete repair solution.

Advanced Tests:

Bluedriver can conduct a variety of advanced tests such as Fuel System Test, Comprehensive Components Test, Airbag, ABS, Misfire Counts, etc.

Dashboard Customization:

Bluedriver scanner offers great customization options. You can customize the type of data you want to see such as RPMs, speed, fuel pressure, etc.

Shows Accurate Results:

Bluedriver scanner shows accurate information regarding your vehicle’s maintenance schedules, TSBs (technical service bulletins) and specifications.

Smog Check:

Smog tests let you know if your car is producing excessive emissions.

Export Data:

A log file can be made and exported to a computer as well.

The downside of Bluedriver is that it doesn’t support camshaft timing. Also, you can’t reprogram a FOB and read transmission temperature.

BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone & Android
BlueDriver gives you the complete set of diagnostics on a wide range of manufacturers. Credit: Obdstation.com
Compatibility

Bluedriver scanner supports all Volkswagen, Chrysler, GM, BMW, Honda, Ford, and Nissan models sold in North America. The software runs on both iOS and Android devices and is also free to download.

Bluedriver also supports major OBDII protocols.

Pros

  • Real-time accurate data (engine oil temp, pressure, fuel usage, etc.)
  • Takes a snapshot when a code is stored (Freeze Frame).
  • Offers all basic and a few advanced diagnostic features.
  • Reads and clears CEL codes.
  • 6 million verified fixes from the scanner.

Cons

  • The app doesn’t work well with laptops (it is meant for phones only).
  • It doesn’t show cam and crank sensor details.
  • It cannot activate relays and switches.

Vehicle owners who want to perform engine tests using their phones can turn to this best OBD2 scanner. It is a smartphone operable and works on Bluetooth technology.

It’s a good fit for DIYers.

Check Price at Amazon

Autel AutoLink AL319 Cheap OBD Reader

autel al319
Autel AutoLink AL319 Cheap OBD Reader
4.44.4 / 5
Autel al319 OBD2 code scanner is ‘Plug and play’ and very easy to use even for beginners,works on all 1996 and newer vehicles (OBD II & CAN)-domestic and import,Supports English, French, German,Spanish etc

If you have a 1996 model or newer car then Autolink AL319 being a plug and play OBD2 code reader can be a good option.

AL319 diagnoses and fixes problems quickly and is a good fit for beginners even if they don’t know anything about engine problems.

Basic Functions:

AL319 will check engine light codes and clear them. It shows live PCM data so that you can know which parameter is wrong.

Freeze frame data tells you the reason for your car’s breakdown.

Other common functions it offers include I/M Readiness Status(emissions), Live Sensor Data, VIN, CIN, CVN, and DTC Lookup.

Print Data:

With AL319, you can print the code along with the definition. This is a good option as you can show it to any professional and ask for tips – even a Google search can be of help.

Corded:

Autolink AL319 doesn’t support Bluetooth or WiFi as it is not phone supported.

Free Updates:

AL319 OBD2 code reader lets you download free updates.

The only bad thing about the product is that it doesn’t support phone connectivity and the cord isn’t too long either.

Autel AutoLink AL319 Engine Fault CAN / OBD2 Code Reader
AutoLink AL319 is a great entry-level car code reader for you. Credit: Obdstation.com
Compatibility

Supports OBD2 1996 and newer models, CAN support vehicles, EOBD vehicles as well.

No phone support.

Pros

  • 1-year warranty.
  • Lifetime free updates.
  • It has P0, P2, P3, U0 and U3 within the DTC library.
  • Lets you reset ABS and SRS lights.
  • Gives real-time information.

Cons

  • Short cord – won’t allow the device to come to the lap.
  • Doesn’t display VIN information on some models.
  • It doesn’t read Volvo XC90 codes.

DIYers and car owners who want to save money by taking their car to a mechanic. Car owners who can deal with a corded yet useful scanner. Not suitable for professionals due to a lack of advanced functionalities.

Check Price at Amazon

FOXWELL NT301 Full OBDII Scanning Tool

FOXWEL NT301
FOXWELL NT301 Full OBDII Scanner
4.34.3 / 5
NT301 car scan tool is open to global customers. It is an upgraded version from the basic car obdii diagnostic scanner with distinctive features. No battery required, it is charged directly from the OBDII car scanner interface in your vehicle.

FOXWELL NT301 provides some amazing functions which is why it is one of the best OBD2 code readers we have on the list. It shows the code’s definition on the TFT screen which is graphically superior and also erases DTC (engine fault codes).

Other than that, Foxwell NT301 performs most of the common functions such as CEL(check engine light), MIL(malfunction indicator lamp), VIN etc.
Basic Functions:

Supports multiple code requests including manufacturer specific, generic and pending codes.

Performs engine diagnostics such as Fuel Trim, Engine Coolant Temp, I/M Readiness, Freeze Frame, Fuel Pressure, RPM ECT and reads live O2 Sensor as well.

NT301 doesn’t have any advanced functions such as DPF, Programming, and Key Coding.

An EOBD and OBD II Scanner:

FOXWELL NT301 supports 1996 and after US-based OBD2 supported models. Moreover, it can also support 2001 and newer petrol supported European cars with OBD diagnostics

FOXWELL NT301 Professional Enhanced OBDII Code Reader
Compatibility

NT301 supports five major OBDII protocols.

No phone connectivity. This OBD II scan tool is connected to the CPU of the vehicle using a diagnostics cable.

Pros

  • Charges when the ignition is on.
  • 1-year money back guarantee and lifetime free updates.
  • On-screen DTC definitions that point the exact problem.
  • Can be updated through the internet.
  • Saves data log that can also be printed.

Cons

  • Only updates on Windows.
  • The scanner doesn’t support BMW.
  • The appearance of white dots in place of text after some time.

Only for car owners and DIYers because it doesn’t offer advanced options.

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Autel MaxiCOM MK808 All System Diagnostic Service Scan Tool

autel maxicom mk808
Autel MaxiCOM MK808 All System Diagnostic Service Scan Tool
4.54.5 / 5
This diagnostic tool will give your car a full detection since it can read/clear DTCs and view data stream for ALL systems (ABS, SRS, Engine, Transmission,…) 

MK808 is one of the best OBD2 scanners on the market for vehicle geeks who know their way around with cars and can repair complex malfunctions, too.

It’s a diagnostic tablet with a 7-inch LCD that makes the scanning process a lot of fun. It works on polymer battery which comes included.

You can easily use it for 4.5 hours straight.

Advanced Features:

Apart from offering conventional OBD2 functions, it has many advanced features in store for you to use. These include EPB, SAS, DPF, Oil reset, BMS, ABS, TPMS, and Key Programming.

Only a Professional OBD2 scanner can offer these features.

Data Manager:

MK808 lets you save, manage and print diagnostic results. It has a memory of 32GB which is enough to save the information.

Common Features:

MK808 lets you perform emission tests, ABS light test, SRS test, fuel system diagnosis, wiper system, light systems and all common OBD2 scanner functions.

The downside is that you have to purchase for software updates after the first year.

Autel MaxiCOM MK808 OBD2 Scanner Diagnostic Scan Tool with All System Diagnosis and Service Functions
Compatibility

MK808 supports a variety of vehicles that are 1996 US-based and 2000 EU based OBD2 compliant such as Acura, Audi, AUFord, Bentley, Benz, BMW, Bugatti, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Efurd, Ford, GM, Holden, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Isuzu, Jaguar, KIA, etc.

It covers all major PIDs and works and has a built-in Android system 4.4.4.

Pros

  • A9 processor processes queries really quickly.
  • Technology support from Autel tech team.
  • Works on Android.
  • Comes with a charger.
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Doesn’t support ECU programming.
  • Updates have to be bought after the first 12 months.
  • IMMO function doesn’t work on Benz.

MK808 OBD2 scan tool is built for professionals who want to perform advanced functions like ABS, SRS, DPF, IMMO, TPMS, etc.

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Bonus: 7 Best OBD2 Bluetooth Scanners / Adapters Review 2020

BAFX Products Bluetooth OBD2 Code Reader

bafx products
BAFX Products Bluetooth OBD2 Code Reader
4.44.4 / 5
Many similar OBD2 tools CLAIM to work on all vehicles but have problems with the J1850 & CAN protocols however….. the BAFX Products OBD reader actually DOES work on all vehicles & ALL OBD2 protocols!

BAFX is an OBD2 scanner that performs diagnostics on your vehicle’s engine and provides with instant results. Moreover, it is the among the most selling code readers on the market.

Displays Real-time Results:

Running a diagnostic while the vehicle is in motion can help driven can detect problems in real-time. These include engines issues, overheating issues, sensor problems etc.

BAFX shows results in a graphical form which is easy to read.

Smog Check:

BAFX also lets you perform smog test to check for excess emissions in the car.

Basic Functions:

This can check Coolant Temp, Oil Temp, CEL Fault Codes, Air Fuel Ratio, Fuel Pressure, DPF Temp, O2 Sensors, Fuel Trim, Emission Test, etc.

The downside of BAFX is that it loses connectivity on some models.

Moreover, it doesn’t have an app of its own. You will need to download a third party app to use it.

BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Code Reader Function
Compatibility

This OBD2 scan tool can be operated via a smartphone. It supports Android and Windows phones only and is compatible with 1996 and newer models including hybrid cars.

Additionally, it is also compatible with some vehicles outside of the US. These include:

  • Mexico – All vehicles, 2006 & Newer
  • Australia – All vehicles, 2006 & Newer
  • India – All vehicles, 2013 & Newer
  • EU (Petrol) – All vehicles, 2001 & Newer
  • EU (Diesel) – All vehicles, 2004 & Newer
  • Israel – All vehicles, 2003 & Newer
  • Brazil – All vehicles, 2008 & Newer
  • Canada – All vehicles, 1998 & Newer
  • Japan – All vehicles, 2010 & Newer

It supports all OBDII protocols including CAN & J1850 protocols.

Pros

  • 2-year warranty
  • Quick sensor fresh.
  • Real-time data reading.
  • Works great in 20ft range.

Cons

  • Doesn’t stay engaged for long
  • Doesn’t last very long
  • Can’t work on Apple devices

For DIYers and car owners for performing simple diagnostics.

Check Price at Amazon

ANCEL AD310 Cheap OBD2 Scanner

ancel ad310
ANCEL AD310 Cheap OBD2 Scanner
4.54.5 / 5
ANCEL AD310 is a great upgrade from the more basic diagnostic Code Reader. The major function of this scanner is detecting the Engine System, read and clear the error codes

ANCEL AD310 serves as a plug and play device and is the best car code reader for many due to its fast speed.

Basic Functions:

With the AD310, you can Check Engine Light, I/M Monitor Readiness Test, Turn Off the MIL (check engine light) and View Freeze Frame Data.

ANCEL AD310 has many OBD system checks functions.
ANCEL AD310 serves as a plug and play device and is the best car code reader for many due to its fast speed.
———

Easy To Use:

This auto code reader only has four buttons. Two for scrolling, two for entering and exiting.

Smog Check:

AD310 lets you do a smog test, but doesn’t offer advanced feature such as SRS, Transmission, airbag systems, coding etc.

Compatibility

It can’t be operated with a phone and only works on a 12V battery.

Supports 1996 and newer US models.

Pros

  • 3-year warranty.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Charges directly from the OBD2 connector.
  • Large LCD display
  • 2.5 feet cable is composed of an insulator

Cons

  • The display stays clear sometimes and device needs to be resetted.
  • Connection error in many brands (Nissan, VW, Ford, Subaru).
  • Must be 16 PIN OBD II protocol.

ANCEL AD310 with professional design.
ANCEL AD310 is a great tool for reading codes.
———

The car fault code reader is a great tool for DIYers and car owners. Because this OBD2 code reader offers simple diagnostics. However, it is among the best car code readers due to its low price.

Check Price at Amazon

Foxwell NT201 Engine OBDii Reader

foxwell nt201
Foxwell NT201 Engine OBD Reader
4.34.3 / 5
FOXWELL NT201 OBDII EOBD code reader is an essential scan tool which allows DIY mechanics or car owners to verify repairs, checks State Emission Monitor Status and solves basic engine problems quickly and efficiently. Its 2.4” TFT color screen, hot key for I/M readiness test and read/clear DTCs make it deserve the money.
NT201 is far better than many car code readers as it offers almost all the basic functions and supports OND2, EOBD JOBD and CAN cars including trucks, SUVs and minivans also. This makes it the best car code reader for many.

Basic Functions:

FOXWELL NT201 is capable of reading and erasing codes. This OBD2 code reader offers a wide range of basic functions including I/M Readiness Status test, Read & Clear DTCs, VINs, DTCs, Freeze Frame Data, O2 Sensor, Evap System Test, CID, CVN, On-board Monitor Test, Smog Test, Turn off MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lights).

LED Indicators:

There are 3 LED indicators. Green light means the vehicle is in good condition. Yellow indicates there’s an issue that has been solved. Red light shows there’s a serious problem and needs help.

Plug And Play:

It’s very easy to use. Connect it to the DLC socket and you’re good to go. There’s a 2.4 TFT color display and also a built-in speaker.

It’s among the best car code readers but does not offer advanced functions. Moreover, this OB2 code reader also doesn’t support mobile devices.

FOXWELL NT201 is capable of reading and erasing codes, show I/M Readiness Status, live data, MIL, Freeze Frame Data, On-board Monitor Test, DTC Lookup and Smog Test.
FOXWELL NT201 OBDII EOBD code reader is a must for car owners.
———

Compatibility

It supports OBD2/EOBD/JOBD & CAN.

As for protocols, it supports J1859-41.6, ISO9141, J1850-10.4, CAN, KWP2000 (ISO 14230).

It supports all major 1996 and newer car models.

Connects with a cable.

Pros

  • 3-year warranty.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Compatible with a wide range of cars.
  • Dust protection.
  • Quick and efficient solutions.

Cons

  • Instruction manual is hard to follow (tiny writing).
  • Registration problems on the website.

It is a good OBD2 code reader for car owners who can deal with a corded scanner and wish to fix small issues on their own. The tool is suitable for check engine light reader and engine code reader with cheap price.

Check Price at Amazon

ANCEL AD410 OBDII Affordable Car Scanner

ANCEL AD410
ANCEL AD410 OBDII Affordable Car Scanner
4.34.3 / 5
This code reader is a great upgrade from the more basic car code reader, It shows real-time live data reported by the ECU, engine temperature, O2 sensor readings etc

ANCEL AD410 offers many basic and advanced functions. This wide range of functions makes it one of the best car code readers.

Basic Functions:

AD410 offers Check Engine Light, I/M, Monitor Readiness Test, Turn Off the MIL (check engine light), View Freeze Frame Data, Pending Codes functions and fixes them, too.

Advanced Features:

It offers some advanced tests include emission, O2 sensor.

AD410 offers Check Engine Light, I/M, Monitor Readiness Test, Turn Off the MIL (check engine light), View Freeze Frame Data, Pending Codes functions and fixes them, too.
Functions offered by ANCEL AD410 save your trip to the mechanic.
———

Easy To Use:

It has a 2.4 TFT true color display along with an innovative design. One can operate the scanner without even reading the manual.

Smog Check:

With AD410, you can do a smog test as well.

Lifetime Free Software Updates:

You can download updates for a lifetime, however, phones aren’t supported. You will need to connect the device to a PC with a cable.

Compatibility:

This OBD2 code reader can’t be operated with a phone and only works on a 12V battery.

Supports all 1996 and newer US models.

Pros

  • Has the latest OBD2 DTC Lookup library (updateable)
  • 262k LCD Display.
  • Meant to work with STM 32 bit CPU, hence high speed performance.
  • Sends feedbacks to ANCEL from the settings option.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Charges directly from the OBD2 connector.

Cons

  • Customers find the company support to be poor.
  • Used on a 12V battery only.
  • Frequent black screen problems.

Suitable for car owners and DIYers as this OBD2 code reader allows checking for leaks, O2 sensor readings and other basic functions.

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Autel MaxiLink ML619 OBD2 Scan Tool

autel ml619
Autel MaxiLink ML619 OBD2 Scan Tool
4.44.4 / 5
Quickly diagnose problems with a vehicle with the Autel MaxiLink ML619 Vehicle Diagnostic Scanner Reader. This handheld tool is ideal for detecting faults on anti-lock brakes ABS, supplemental restraint systems and air bag systems SRS, and performing OBDII diagnostics

Autel Maxilink ML619 is an OBD2 scan tool that can detect faults on anti-lock brakes ABS, SRS, airbag systems, etc.

It can also read generic and manufacturer specific codes.

The scanner comes with a USB cable, 16GB micro SD card, and a nylon cover.

Advanced Functions:

Autel Maxilink ML619 offers some useful advanced functions including ABS Warning Lights, SRS Warning Lights.

Common Functions:

With Autel Maxilink ML619, you read and clear codes that are pending, check and clear CEL codes, and shows drive cycle readiness as well.

Code And Cause:

You won’t be only seeing a trouble code on the screen but a full explanation. For example, if something’s wrong in the intake valve, it will show P1135 = ‘Intake Valve Timing Control Bank 2’.

Autel Maxilink ML619 does tell you about the problems in the ABS and SRS systems but doesn’t stream live ABS sensor signals.
Autel MaxiLink ML619 CAN OBD2 Scanner Function
Compatibility

Autel Maxilink ML619 supports a wide range of vehicles including:

Ford, GM, Honda, Holden, Mitsubishi, Rover, Acura, FIAT, Audi, Nissan and all the cars that are 1996 and newer (OBD2 and CAN) models.

Autel Maxilink ML619 is one of the best obd2 reader which is a corded device.

Pros

  • Live graph data.
  • Updates are free.
  • Print data logs on PC.
  • Can be used on multiple vehicles.
  • No battery needed as it is powered using the vehicle’s DLC.

Cons

  • Need to register on the website to update.
  • Only for USA/Canada vehicles (gives range error in other models).
  • 46 feet cord can be too short for some people.

Since it can cover many basic functions and also show and clear ABS and SRS light issues, Autel Maxilink ML619 is an excellent option for DIYers if not the best OBD2 scanner and people who want to avoid garage trips.

Check Price at Amazon

LAUNCH Creader 3001 OBDii Reader

Creader 3001
LAUNCH Creader 3001 OBD2 Reader
55 / 5
This code reader support OBDII/EOBD protocols,Works on MOST 1996 US-Based, 2000 EU-Based and Asian cars, and newer OBD II & CAN domestic or import vehicles. Supports English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Portuguese.

You won’t find a better OBD2 code reader than Creader 3001. It offers almost everything except for advanced functions. This is why many consider it to be the best car code reader for basic functions.

Basic Functions:

It offers a wide range of basic functions including I/M Readiness status test, DTCs, VIN Information, Freeze Frame Data, Data Stream, O2 Sensor, Evap System Test, On-board Monitor Test, Smog Test, Turn off MIL(Malfunction Indicator Lights)

DTC Lookup Library:

See trouble codes explanation.

Launch Creader 3001 best car code scanner
Creader 3001 menus.
———

Compatibility

This OBD2 code reader is compatible with all US 1996 and newer models and supports both OBD II & CAN vehicles.

Connects with a 2.5 feet cable, however, can’t be controlled with a phone.

Pros

  • 2-year warranty.
  • Insulator cable.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Compatible with a wide range of cars.
  • Dust cap design – protection against dust.

Cons

  • Little to no updates.
  • No instructional manual.

A perfect fit for car owners and DIYers who want to handle just minor problems. They will find it to be the best car code reader.

Check Price at Amazon

Best OBDII Scan Tool Buying Guide

What is an OBD2 Scanner?

Since 1988, the technology beyond the dashboard has been programmed to maintain the most important vehicle systems with the introduction of On-Board Diagnostics, otherwise known as OBD2.

Now, this is a standardized system on all cars and trucks.

The design of the OBD2 system assists your vehicle by performing periodic tests of key vehicle components and emission monitoring.

Essentially, it’s a vehicles’ self-diagnosing tool that regulates and monitors the health of your vehicle.

In order to get behind the brain of the computer on wheels, technicians use an OBD2 car scan tool to read and analyze the data that your car gathers every day.

Types of OBD2 Scanner

There are three kinds of OBD2 scanners:

Basic OBD2 Code Readers:

An automobile code reader is a handheld device that tells you why your check light is on. Thus, some people may name it as a check engine light reader. This type of car problem scanner helps you to troubleshoot the entire vehicle status.

These are the cheapest OBD2 scanners and offer many basic functions such as checking engine light codes, reading and clearing DTCs, etc.

You won’t find any advanced features on them and very few of them can connect to a smartphone or third party app. So, wireless connectivity can be an issue here.

These devices are quite handy because the check engine light only tells you that something is wrong with the car. It doesn’t tell you what the problem is. Only a mechanic or the best car code reader can tell that to you.

Connect an automotive code reader to an OBD connector and it will read the code for you. You can search for the code or ask a professional to help you understand it. Here’s what a vehicle code reader can do:

  • Read trouble codes
  • Clear codes
  • View some basic PIDs
  • Check and reset readiness monitors and more
However, what a code reader can do changes from company to company. This is why you should get your hands on the best car code reader so that you can enjoy as many functionalities as possible.

Best 3 affordable car code readers comparison chart

Best of the BestBest ValueAlso Great
Veepeak OBDCheck BLE
Veepeak OBDCheck BLE
Check Price
Autel AutoLink AL319
Autel AutoLink AL319
Check Price
BAFX Products
BAFX Products
Check Price
Customer
Rating
4.44.4 / 5
4.54.5 / 5
4.44.4 / 5
PriceVeepeak OBDCheck BLE priceAutel AutoLink AL319 priceBAFX Products price
Product
Dimensions
1.6" x 2" x 0.9"63" x 17.7" x 92.5"2.8" x 1.5" x 1"
Item Weight2.4oz6.2oz3.04oz
VIN✔️✔️--
MIL✔️✔️✔️
O2 SENSOR TEST----✔️
I/M READINESS--✔️--
FREEZE FRAME DATA✔️✔️--
ConnectivityBluetoothCordedBluetooth

Why Do You Need a Code Reader Or Code Scanner For Your Car?

To be able to save money and reduce trips to the mechanic.

An OBD II scanner understandably offers more solutions. It can be great if you are a professional mechanic or wish to know your car better.

An OBD II reader, on the other hand, can only read CEL codes and help you clear some. But it does not provide with fixes.

If you don’t want to waste your money by buying a poor code reader/scanner then keep on reading. We tested and made a list of car code readers to help you pick the best check engine code reader.

At the end of the day, it totally depends upon the compatibility of your car, what your needs are and how much are you willing to spend. We recommend going for the device which is the best car code reader in all aspects. Just figure out what you need in this review of the best automotive code scanners.

DIY OBD2 Scanners:

These scanners mostly come with dedicated mobile apps to connect wirelessly. Most DIY scanners can make a connection with a smartphone.

In terms of functionality, they are better than basic OBD2 scanners but are not suitable or professional use since they only offer a few advanced functions.

Professional Diagnostic Tools:

These scanners offer solutions to complex car problems. You will find many advanced features in professional OBD2 scanners such as ECU coding, key programming, DPF, EPB, etc. This is the best OBD2 scanner among all three.

OBD2 scanner: How does it work?

In a nutshell, an OBD Scan Tool can link up to the computer database inside your vehicle to diagnosis all systems.

With an effective scan tool, you will have access to Reading and Erasing Engine Codes, Checking I/M Readiness, which includes emissions.

You also will have access to more advanced features such as online programming, key coding and other useful functions with an advanced automotive scan tool.

I would suggest doing research on what scan tool is perfect for you and your vehicle, or check out a comparison chart of the top 10 best car scanners.

First, check out how to correctly use an OBD2 scan tool.

Each car scan tool is unique, however, the thing that remains consistent in all of them is the ability to help the user detect the diagnostic trouble codes stored within the vehicles On-Board Diagnostic system.

These codes, better known as DTCs – Diagnostic Trouble Codes, identify the problem area and provide an inside look at where the problem may be occurring.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes Example

Today, our vehicles are smarter and more advanced and often can self-correct an issue, however, some problems need extra assistance.

If the check engine light or Malfunction indicator light turns on, that means the Power Control Module (PCM) cannot decode the error.

Within your vehicle, a series of codes create a language to tell you what is occurring beyond the dashboard.

This is when a car scan tool comes in handy.

Using a car diagnostic tool, you can decode and discover the source of the problem.

Bonus: Best Car Code Reader: Top 10 Picks For Money Review and Comparison 2020

What can an OBDii Scanner do for your car? – Functionality

If your check engine light has come on, there are various reasons that could be causing it, with a multi-functional scan tool you can gain access to a series of functions to help make the diagnosis easy.

A typical code reader can only help read and clear codes.

But, a car scan tool grants access to live and stored data as well as enabling the user to perform many other functions.

Transmission Diagnostics:

Some of the most common error codes come from the transmission. Whether that may be an overheating problem, transmission control malfunction or low transmission fluid, with an auto scanner that gives direct access to transmission codes, the diagnosis will be a piece of cake.

ABS/SRS/Airbag Monitoring:

The ABS system stores information about wheel speed, brake fluid, and antilock detection, which controls the most important thing about your vehicle: how to stop. The SRS system, or airbags, monitors wheel speed, brake pressure, and seat occupancy to ensure all passengers are secure in the event of an accident. These systems are key components that an OBD2 scanner can detect are running smoothly.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System:

Or TPMS is a system that’s primary job is to inform the driver about the state of the tire pressure within the wheels. With normal conditions, the OBD system will alert the driver when the PSI of a tire falls below 25%. Before changing the tires on a vehicle, its always recommended checking the TPMS with a scan tool.

Oil Reset:

After you have checked the oil levels on your vehicle, and finished the proper maintenance, whether that be replacing the pump or sensor, sometimes the pesky oil light remains on. In this case, an OBD2 scanner is the best tool to reset the light and inform the OBD system that everything is working properly.

Battery Testing:

Testing the battery is an important part of vehicle maintenance, in order to check battery health and to avoid the problem of the car not starting. Using an OBD2 auto scanner or battery tester, you will have a clear reading of when or if it is time to replace the battery.

Other Advanced functions:

Not all scan tools are built the same, if you purchase a more advanced scanner or a bi-directional scan tool, you may have additional features that are not common in ALL products.

For example, with a more advanced scan tool, you may have access to:

  • Online Programming- If this is the case, you may be able to program and update your device through wireless or internet connectivity. This will keep your device up-to-date and give more accurate vehicle readings.
  • ABS, Misfires, Battery Information- You can ensure your vehicle is in good health with a clear reading about the diagnostics of your vehicles ABS system, battery system and all engine misfires happening with live data streaming.
  • Anti-Lock Brake System and Key-Coding- The most important systems on your vehicle can detect how fast your car is moving and how much pressure to give to your brakes in order to stop your vehicle from propelling forward. You can receive real-time accurate data about your vehicles brake speed with advanced functions from a scan tool. If you get really advanced, some newer scan tools allow you to program new keys for your car, which will help you avoid high costs form mechanics.

Additional Scan Functions:

  • CEL, RPM, Fuel, Speed, Pressure, Coolant Temp, Live Map: Many different parameters are measured when there is a misfire in the engine of a vehicle. With Freeze Frame technology, a scan tool is able to take a snapshot of important information such as RPM, Fuel, Speed, Coolant Temperatures and Live Map of the exact location a problem may be occurring.
  • Air Fuel Ratio and O2 Sensors.- determining the condition of the oxygen sensor in your vehicle is vital to make sure everything is operating smoothly. If the Oxygen Sensor is malfunctioning, this may cause the engine to read problems slower or inaccurately. A scan-tool can read emissions of your vehicle and understand if all ratios are proper.
  • Battery Performance, Engine Performance, Oil Temp:  Most effective scan tools allow you to test the voltage, current, and continuity of the battery life on your vehicle. This will ensure your vehicle is running properly and you will ensure high engine performance. You may not be able to read the oil temperature with all scan tools, but if the error code arrives, you can quickly read the definition of oil temperature.

Why Get An OBD2 Scanner?

An OBD2 scanner will let you read check engine light codes and even provide a fix. That’s not all, they will also perform advanced functionalities like check battery performance, do smog tests, EPB, key coding, etc.

Hence, you’d be saving a lot of money by fixing small problems yourself and saving a trip to the garage.

We prepared this review after testing several OBD2 scanners to find the best OBD2 scanner.

Some were extremely good, some were extremely bad. We made sure to only include the best OBD2 scanners after comparing them on features, prices and other such factors.

What Types of OBD Scanner Do I Need?

This largely depends on your vehicle and requirements. Ideally, you should go for OBD2 scanners since they are more powerful. However, OBD2 scanners do not support old cars (usually older than 1996 models), so that can be a problem.

Pick a scanner that is compliant with your vehicle.

The next step is to consider different types. They are explained below with the help of comparison charts.

OBD1 Scanners vs OBD2 Scanner: A Comparison

Have a look at this table to understand the difference so that you can pick the right scanner for your car:

CriteriaOBD1 ScannersOBD2 Scanners
Innova 3145BlueDriver
Vehicles CompatibilityCars manufactured before 1996. Some trucks may also be supportedCars manufactured in 1996 and beyond. Some scanners support selected big trucks and electric cars as well
Use of UseEasy to use but limited functionalitiesEasy to use with more functionalities
DiagnosisSemi-automaticFully automatic
Main FunctionsCan check actuator and sensor for high resistance, shorts and opens. All values that are out of range are sent back to the ECM.Can do all that OBD1 scanners do with additional functions including smog tests, graphs, customization, record and playback data, etc.
SolutionGive result after considering fuel and energy consumed by the vehicle while comparing it to the outputImproved messaging formats and signaling protocols that take into account different factors and calculations
ReliabilityLowVery High
InterfaceManufacturer (each scanner is specific to one manufacturer)Universal (one scanner supports multiple cars)
Messaging ExampleCEL (Check Engine Light)C2132 (alphabet followed by four digits)
ConnectionTypically connected to the consoleMost of them work remotely via Bluetooth or Wifi

Code Readers vs DIY Scanners vs Professional Diagnostic Tools Comparision Chart

Basic Code ReadersDIY ScannersProfessional Diagnostic Tools
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner

BlueDriverAutel MK808
Very affordableAffordableExpensive
Can read and clear DTC’sMeant for basic tasks but can perform some advanced functions as wellCan perform both basic and advanced tasks
Give access to few PIDs and can also clear set engine light, but don’t offer troubleshooting, live data, graphs, and other such detailed featuresDo all that basic code readers do with access to all major PIDs. Plus, offer code definitions and information on basic troubleshooting. Can also handle bidirectional communicationDo all that DIY scanners do with added features as some come with additional testing tools like multimeters and scopes. Plus, some may give access to additional PIDs.
Good for DIYers and people trying to know their cars better and solve small problemsPerfect for car lovers who wish to upgrade their vehicles and saving trips to the mechanicMeant for professionals and mechanics. Not suitable for people with little knowledge about cars

The right type of those troubleshooting scan tools depends on your needs. DIY scanners seem to be most popular since they offer a balance between basic and advanced tasks.

If you are a car enthusiast or DIYer then you should go for DIY scanners. They are easy to use and are also compact in size. Plus, they also often come with guides and tutorials.

However, if you are a professional or need very advanced features then opt for professional scanners. They are large in size but offer almost everything that a mechanic needs.

You should pick the scanner that supports your vehicle which depends on the year it was manufactured in. There are some 2in1 scanners as well that support both newer and older car models.

They can be a good option if you have two or more cars from different eras. Just make sure to pick a scanner that offers all the functionalities that you need.

What Vehicles Are They Compatible With?

OBD1 Scanners:

Support most cars manufactured between 1991-1996. Plus, few newer and older models might also be supported You may, however, need to purchase cables separately.

Moreover, since they are not standardized, a scanner made for Ford will not work for Toyota. You will get different diagnostics even if both cars have similar issues.

Best OBD1 Scanners Comparison Chart
Actron CP9690
Actron CP9690
Check Price
FOXWELL NT510
FOXWELL NT510
Check Price
INNOVA 3120
INNOVA 3120
Check Price
Customer Rating
4.34.3 / 5
44 / 5
4.24.2 / 5
PriceActron CP9690 priceFOXWELL NT510 priceINNOVA 3120 price
Product Dimensions4" x 11" x 13.5"7.9" x 1.5" x 3.9"2.5" x 15" x 10.5"
Item Weight3.63lbs1.35lbs2lbs
OBD1 and OBD2 functions
Support ABS functions
Support SRS functions--
Support transmission and engine
Read and clear check engine light



Bonus: Best OBD1 Scanners Review and Comparison 2020

OBD2 Scanners:

They support almost all models released after 1996.

However, they might not work with hybrid and electric vehicles.

OBD2 Basic VS Advanced Functions

OBD2 scanners can perform a mix of basic and advanced functionalities. However, what they can do largely depends on the manufacturer and app they support.

Some basic functions that OBD2 scanners cover include:

  • CEL, RPM, Speed, Fuel, Pressure, Check Engine Light Reset,
  • Coolant Temp, Air Fuel Ratio, Live Map, Freeze Frame Data,
  • Live Readings, Oil Temp, Coolant Temp,
  • Fuel Pressure, DPF Temp, Smog Testing, O2 Sensors and Fuel Trim.

Other than this, most OBD2 scanners offer Graphs, Digital Display, Data Export, and Dashboard Customization as well. Plus, they can all suggest repairs but some may come with more reliable solutions than others.

Some advanced features that OBD2 scanners cover include:

  • ABS, Misfire Counts, Oil Change, SRS, Weather Check,
  • BMC Coding, Mileage, Battery Information and Initialization,
  • Video Overlay, Oil Reset, Supplemental restraint system,
  • Anti-brake lock system and Airbag Problems,
  • Key Coding, ECU coding, ECU programming, Online Programming, etc.

Do I Need an OBD2 Scanner with Advanced Functions?

Only you can answer this question. If you are not a tech geek or have no knowledge of codes and vehicle maintenance, then there is no point in going for a scanner with advanced features.

You will not be able to understand most of the codes and will anyway have to take your vehicle to a mechanic.

However, if you are a tech enthusiast or professional then you should go for advanced features.

A scanner with advanced features will help you understand your car better. Plus, the right OBD2 scanner can even allow you to customize your vehicle and get more out of it.

Corded vs Bluetooth Vs WiFi OBD2 Scanner

Corded scanners make use of a wire to connect with the vehicle. Most come with a wire that’s supported but you may have to buy separately in some cases and connect it with the port.

This is the biggest drawback of corded scanners, yet many people still use them. Some also find them to be easier to use because there is no need to worry about Bluetooth or WiFi signals and devices being supported.

However, wireless scanners seem to be more popular. They both do the same job: provide you with diagnostics but using different technologies.

Bluetooth and WiFi scanners can connect with your Windows, Android or iOS device to transfer data. We prefer Bluetooth over WiFi since it consumes less power and is typically faster as well.

However, you will not face much difference in terms of speed since OBD2 scanners only transfer small data.

Apple’s MFi program prevents certain Bluetooth devices from working on iOS devices. This is why some Bluetooth scanners do not support iOS devices.

In addition to this, WiFi adapters can be a pain when connecting to the internet, especially when used with Android devices.

Since they do not serve as modems, you will have to disconnect the internet every time you have to search for a code. This can be avoided by using Bluetooth scanners.

All in all, we would say it is a personal preference. Some people like wires and some do not. Overall, the features provided by a scanner depend more on the brand and less on it being wireless.

Bonus: Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanners Review and Comparison 2020

Best OBD2 Scanner Buying Guide Checklist

We have reached the end of this OBD2 scanner buying guide. Let’s now have a look at what to consider when buying an OBD scanner.

Compatibility

Pick an OBD1 vs OBD2 scanners that is compatible with your car

Pick a scanner that is compatible with your vehicle (model, make, fuel type, etc., should be considered).

Most scanners support cars but some may support light and heavy-duty trucks as well.

Also, check for protocols. Most OBD2 scanners cover five OBD2 protocols but some may have support for additional protocols as well.

Also, remember that OBD2 scanners only work with 1996 and beyond models. You will need an OBD1 scanner for older cars.

Functions

Pick a scanner keeping your car and requirements

Pick a scanner keeping your car and requirements in mind. If you are a DIYer and only want to save a little bit of money, you should go for a scanner that offers basic features.

Conversely, if you a machinist or a professional, you should opt for a scanner with advanced features. This will help you save more money and give your vehicle a boost.

Connectivity

Many Obd1 vs Obd2 scanners also support Windows devices and Bluetooth-enabled laptops

Corded scanners have their benefits but Bluetooth scanners are preferred by more people these days.

Bluetooth adapters work better with Android devices and WiFi adapters work better with iOS devices. However, some can support both devices.

Moreover, many adapters also support Windows devices and Bluetooth-enabled laptops.

Price Range

WiFi adapters are typically more expensive than Bluetooth adapters

WiFi adapters are typically more expensive than Bluetooth adapters, but the price usually depends on factors such as warranty, features, etc.

You should ideally pick one that is within your budget. Check out our guide on Best OBD1 Scanners in 2018 for some good OBD1 scanners under your budget.

Note: Buying apps can add to the cost to try to get one that comes with a free app.

Update

Go for a OBD2 scanners that come with regular updates

Go for a scanner that comes with regular updates to cover more problems. Many scanners offer lifetime software support.

This can be a good option especially because new vehicles come with new problems and only updates can keep you safe.

Some scanners can update online and some need to be connected to a computer. While they both work fine, getting a computer can often be a problem for some users.

Warranty

Most OBD2 scanners come with 1-2 year warranty

Pick a scanner that comes with a warranty so that you do not have to worry about anything in case the scanner doesn’t work or support your vehicle.

Most scanners come with 1-2 year warranty that is typically not extendable.

Apps

Obd2 scanners work on apps

OBD2 scanners work on apps. Some come with their own app and some supports third-party apps.

You should ideally pick a scanner that has its own app but also supports for third-party apps so that you can decide if you wish to pay for an app or not.

Plus, the features you get also depend on the app that you use, which is why third-party apps can be beneficial.

The Bottom Line

This is it. We are done with our OBD2 and OBD1 scanner buying guide.

To sum it up, OBD2 scanners should be your first choice (Bluetooth or WiFi) if you have a 1996+ car model. However, for old car owners, OBD1 scanners can do the job.

How to use an OBD2 Scanner: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s get down to the basics, now you know how a normal automotive scan tool works, but now you need to know how to use it.

Heres a step by step explanation to turning on and using the scan tool:

#1. OBD2 Set-Up for your Car Scanner

  • Turn the ignition of your vehicle OFF, this is very important before connecting any equipment.
  • Locate the 16-pin Data-Link Connector (DLC) port on your vehicle, normally tucked under and behind the steering wheel.
  • Plug in the OBD connector from your OBD2 scan tool into your vehicle’s port.
  • Turn the ignition ON, note that the engine does not have to be running.
  • Use the buttons on the OBD2 scan interface to scroll and select components from the Main Screen.
  • Press the ENTER/EXIT button to select options from the menu, wait for vehicle information to load.
  • View the summary of different systems from the Diagnostic Menu, such as MIL status, DTC counts, and Monitor status.

#2. How to Read Codes:

  • Use the Scroll button to READ CODES from the Diagnostic Menu, these can be stored codes, pending codes or permanent codes.
  • You will be able to read the codes and their definition on the screen.

#3. How to Erase Codes:

  • To ERASE CODES, use the scrolling feature and select ERASE codes, from there you will be prompted to confirm that you want to erase the code.
  • Select Yes or Confirm that you want to Erase the Code from the vehicle information system.

#4. Retrieve Live Data:

  • To view Live Data, use the scroll feature and the enter/exit button to select the Live Data function.
  • Wait a moment while the OBD2 scan tool accesses the stream from your vehicle’s engine.
  • If you wish to view a complete data set, select Complete Data Set and press Enter.

#5. Freeze Frame:

  • To view Freeze Frame Data, select it from the Diagnostic Menu.
  • Wait for the device to detect your vehicle information.
  • Use the scroll feature to read the messages from the Freeze Frame data of your vehicle.
  • If there is no freeze frame data, you should see a message appear that reads ¨no freeze frame data stored¨

#6. I/M Readiness:

  • To retrieve the I/M Readiness of your vehicle, select I/M Readiness from the Diagnostic Menu.
  • If your device allows for viewing of two different cycles, you will have a choice between DTCs Cleared and This Drive Cycle.
  • The display screen will show a list of codes to monitor many variables such as Engine Misfire (MIS), Fuel System Monitor (FUEL), O2S (Oxygen System Monitor) and more for both spark ignition and compression ignition engines.
  • Press Enter/Exit to return to the Diagnostic Menu.

#7. Get your Vehicle Information:

  • To retrieve Vehicle information, select vehicle info from the Display Menu.
  • An advisory message may appear to remind you to turn the engine OFF.
  • Wait a moment and then review vehicle information on the screen.
  • Here you will be able to read VIN number, ID number, Calibration Data and more.

#8. Exit OBD2 Test:

  • To Exit an OBD2 Test, select the Previous Menu button and press the Enter/Exit button.
  • If a warning message appears, confirm that you want to Exit.

What to do when your OBD2 scanner does not work?

If you are having trouble using your obd2 scanner, I hope to help review some common troubleshooting problems and possible solutions.

Error linking Obdii Scanner to Vehicle

The first and most common problem may be an Error when linking to your vehicle.

If the scan tool does not respond when you plug it into your vehicle, a communication error may have occurred.

In order to fix this problem, here are some steps you can take:

  • Double-check that the key in the ignition in your vehicle is turned to the ON position.
  • Look at the OBD2 connector of your scan tool and make sure it is firmly connected in your vehicles DLC port.
  • Verify that your vehicle is compatible with OBD2 technology.
  • Turn your vehicle off, wait up to 10 seconds then turn it on and try again.
  • Make sure the device you have purchased is not broken or tampered with.

Error during Scan Tool Operation: Obd2 scanner fails to work

Maybe your vehicle is connecting to your device, but you are experiencing an Error during Operation.

If this is your case, maybe your device is freezing or experiencing slow running and reading times.

To combat this problem, try these steps:

  • Reset your scan tool.
  • Turn off your ignition, wait for about ten seconds, and try again.

On the other hand, you may have a more serious problem if your Scan Tool Doesn’t Turn On.

In the event that this is happening, follow these steps:

  • Double-Check that the connector is secure in your vehicles DLC port.
  • Look inside the DLC port in your vehicle, there may be some pins that are not straight or are missing.
  • Check the vehicle battery and make sure it is charged with at least 8.0 volts.

Bonus: The Complete List of Professional OBD2 Scanners Review & Comparison 2020

18 thoughts on “Best OBD2 Scanner: Complete Buying Guide and Review 2020”

  1. oh….man
    what else …good explanation abt these devices…best article ihv read so far…great thnkx for spending much of yo valued time
    put this together…..zimbabwe,afric
    a

  2. can i get all in one equipment that does Key Programming and at the same time does Diagnosis for all European, Asian and American car

  3. I’m willing to tell you that I appreciated your article, it’s useful for me, and help me have a good sense.

  4. It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for
    sharing.

  5. This was very interesting, but I have a question I was hoping you might be able to help with. Do you have an opinion on Milwaukee power tools? I just got a job in construction and I want to start with a good brand that’s not too expensive. Looking forward to your reply! 🙂

  6. All good info….being in the used car repair selling and diagnosing for all makes and models it is almost impossible to just buy one obd 2 tool,,,do you have a suggestion,,,working previously for a g/m dealer that was much easier,,,,,not so easy now when you are looking at the whole rainbow..any ideas would be appreciated thks.

  7. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog.
    I’m hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts from you later on as well.
    In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own site
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  8. Thanks for the time spent to put this together.God will increase your wisdom. pls i will like to know a kind of Code Reader for professional that can diagnose Engine/ Transmion,ABS,SRS And oil reset

  9. Donachar Jadunundon

    Good morning.

    Dear Sir,

    I would like to buy a complete Launch C reader for my Mercedes Benz E 250 Car Year 2012.

    Please suggest which Models is good.

    Thank you.

  10. Very good and informative article. Can you suggest a tool I could buy to help in debugging Door Ajar problems? It’s on a 2002 Ford Explorer.

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