Best OBD2 Scanners in 2019 (Top Picks, Reviews & Comparisons)

Check engine light flashing so often you've taped it?

Customers leaving your garage because you can't for the life of you figure what's wrong with their rides?

Or maybe you just want to toy with your car and get to understand better how it works. Whichever your reasons are, we've got you covered. We've spent over 300 hours and some serious  money into buying and testing tons of units to find the best obd2 scanner. 

Now, full disclaimer: "best" will depend entirely on what you need to do with it (duh). There are consumer-grade budget units for $100 that will save the day all day, and professional-grade units for several thousand that are ready to serve massive fleets of cars. 

With that in mind, we've put what we reckon is a truly solid selection that should satisfy all needs. Check our navigation menu above if you need more specific solutions based on your car make, budget, etc.

Let's get into it:

OBD2 Scanner Comparison Chart

IMAGEPRODUCT
TOP PICK!toad obd2 sofware is our favorite choice @ obd2pros.com1. TOAD total auto diagnostics
  • Real-time scanning
  • ECU tuning for better performance
  • Lifetime updates
  • Access to repair manuals
CHECK LATEST PRICE
BUDGET PICK!bafx bluetooth scanner front view of product2. BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader
  • Wireless connection
  • Works on all OBD2 cars
  • Syncs with most third-party apps
  • Can stay plugged in
VIEW ON AMAZON
innova 3160g front product view3. Innova 3160g
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Works with most makes and models
  • Large, backlit screen
  • Intuitive menu controls
VIEW ON AMAZON
Bluedriver bluetooth front product view4. Bluedriver Bluetooth
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Rugged housing works in all settings
  • Large screen is easy to read
  • Check engine and other internal systems
VIEW ON AMAZON
Autel Maxisys Elite front product view5. Autel Maxisys Elite Diagnostic Tool
  • Live scanning
  • ECU tuning
  • Compatible with most makes and models
  • Integrated apps on the proprietary tablet
VIEW ON AMAZON
Autel MS908 front product view6. Autel Maxisys MS908
  • Live stream vehicle data
  • Professional-grade diagnostic tool
  • Rugged tablet is built to last
  • Over 80 makes and models
VIEW ON AMAZON
ScanTool OBDLink LX Bluetooth front product view7. ScanTool OBDLink LX
  • Wireless OBD2 scanner
  • Compatible with most third-party apps
  • Works on all newer Android or Windows devices
  • Fast connection speeds
VIEW ON AMAZON
Ancel AD 410 front product view8. Ancel AD 410
  • Compact handheld scanner
  • Works with most makes and models
  • Fast and easy operation
  • Backlit screen is easy to read
VIEW ON AMAZON
Autel AL519 front product view9. Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced
  • Diagnose check engine, ABS, and SRS lights
  • Stream and graph live vehicle data
  • Compact and rugged design
  • Large, easy-to-read backlit screen
VIEW ON AMAZON
Innova 3100j front product view10. Innova 3100j
  • Compact handheld device
  • Large, backlit screen
  • Easy to use controls
  • Freeze frame data for vehicle monitoring
VIEW ON AMAZON

OBD2 Scanner Reviews - Our Top 10

1. TOAD - Total Auto Diagnostics

toad total car diagnostics

​Image credit : Toad ( Total car diagnostics )

Kicking us off is TOAD, which stands for Total Onboard Auto Diagnostics. This is an all-in-one system that enables you to not only figure out what’s wrong with your car, but how to fix it as well.

Compared to other OBD2 scanners, this is a comprehensive diagnostic tool that works well for both professional mechanics and auto enthusiasts alike.

Product Highlights

Compatible With All Makes and Models

With many OBD2 scanners, you have to pay attention to all of the makes and models that are compatible with the software. In many cases, certain vehicle types are omitted, which means that you’ll be out of luck.

With TOAD, however, that’s not an issue. It works with every make and model out there, so you never have to worry about coming up short when trying to diagnose a problem.

Lifetime Updates

Another issue that OBD2 scanners face is that they can become obsolete over time. With every new make and model that comes out, auto manufacturers will update and change the codes in the system. Alternatively you can also check our full list of obd2 codes.

Thankfully, TOAD will always be relevant, thanks to the fact that you’ll get lifetime updates and access to new repair manuals. Simply put, you’ll only buy TOAD once, but you’ll use it forever.

ECU Adjustment

Modern cars use onboard computers to control all of the internal systems. However, in most cases, all you can do is check to see what the computer says about a particular issue.

With TOAD, though, you can actually fine-tune your vehicle’s performance through the ECU mainframe. Thus, if you want to improve things like fuel efficiency or engine output, you can make these adjustments through the software.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Real-time scanning
  • check
    ​ECU tuning for better performance
  • check
    ​Lifetime updates
  • check
    ​Access to repair manuals
  • check
    ​Works with all makes and models
  • check
    ​Professional-grade materials
  • check
    ​Wireless connections available

CONS

  • ​More expensive than simplified scanners

  • Doesn’t check other systems, just the engine

VIDEO

​2. Innova 3160g

Innova 3160g mini review

For the most part, when looking at various OBD2 scanners, you’ll notice that they are small, handheld devices. While you can get more intensive software packages like the TOAD above, many casual car enthusiasts prefer models like this one from Innova. Let’s see how well it works.

Product Highlights

Compact Design

If you’re not interested in being a hardcore “car guru,” then it doesn’t make sense to buy a complete OBD2 scanning system. While professional-grade models are helpful, they can be a little overwhelming for many people.

Thus, having a compact and easy-to-use scanner like this one can be much more beneficial. It allows you to reset lights and diagnose what’s going on underneath the hood, which is all an OBD2 scanner should do.

Reset Oil, ABS, and Other Lights

When these devices first came out, they were only designed to reset the “check engine” light. Fortunately, modern varieties like this one can go beyond the original intent.

With this scanner, you can reset all kinds of dashboard lights, from TPMS to airbags. Also, you can diagnose what’s wrong with your vehicle so that you know what your next step should be.

Works With Most Models

Although this scanner isn’t as comprehensive as TOAD, it should work with your vehicle. We suggest looking at the complete list of compatible makes and models just to be safe, but if you have a top brand, you shouldn’t have to worry.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Compact and lightweight design
  • check
    ​Works with most makes and models
  • check
    ​Large, backlit screen
  • check
    ​Intuitive menu controls
  • check
    ​Resets all dashboard lights
  • check
    ​Full suite of diagnostic codes
  • check
    ​Repair solutions offered online
  • check
    ​Automatic software updates

CONS

  • ​Not compatible with some foreign models
  • ​Limited functionality when compared to other scanner systems

​Video

​3. Bluedriver Bluetooth

Bluedriver Bluetooth mini review

Usually, when working with an OBD2 scanner, you have to plug the tool into the car every time you want to use it. However, with a device like this, you can simply check your phone whenever you want to see what’s going on underneath the hood. It’s one of the most convenient devices you can find.

Product Highlights

Wireless Connection

As the name suggests, you can connect to this scanner via Bluetooth. It syncs to your phone using the proprietary app, meaning that you can check on your vehicle whenever you see fit.

Compatible With iPhone and Android

Typically speaking, if a scanner syncs to your smartphone, it will usually only work with one provider. Fortunately, Bluedriver is compatible with both operating systems, meaning that everyone can enjoy the simplicity and convenience of this device.

Constant Monitoring

One of the primary benefits of this unit is that you can leave it plugged in at all times. Thus, you can check up on your vehicle no matter where you are. Since you already have your phone on you, it’s much more convenient than other models.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Wireless connection
  • check
    ​Syncs to iPhone or Android devices
  • check
    ​Can be plugged in all the time
  • check
    ​Integrated app allows for diagnostics on the go
  • check
    ​Compatible with most makes and models
  • check
    ​Repair reports available
  • check
    ​Automatic updates to the app
  • check
    List Element
  • check
    ​Live stream data

CONS

  • ​May drain your car’s battery
  • ​Connection can drop suddenly at times

​Video

​4. Autel Maxisys Elite Diagnostic Tool

Autel Maxisys Elite Diagnostic Tool short review

As we’ll see, Autel Maxisys is an excellent maker of high-quality OBD2 scanners. This unit, the Elite Diagnostic Tool, is a professional-grade device that comes with a lot of added features. If you’re serious about maintaining your car, this is an excellent choice.

Product Highlights

ECU Coding and Programming

As we discussed with TOAD, being able to adjust your vehicle’s performance via the onboard computer is an awesome feature. While you should know what you’re doing before messing with these elements, it’s nice to see that you can improve your car without having to pay for upgrades.

Rugged Tablet

Some scanners are a handheld device, while others sync to your smartphone. Autel bridges the gap by giving you a proprietary tablet instead.

What sets this apart is that it comes with all of the scanning and diagnostic apps pre-installed, meaning that you can start using it immediately. Also, the tablet is built for mechanic workshops, so it’s made to last.

Live Scanning and Data Recall

With many modern scanners, you can monitor your car’s performance in real-time. Using the apps, you can not only check on your vehicle’s systems, but you can track the data and chart it over time so that you can spot potential issues before they become real problems.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Live scanning
  • check
    ​ECU tuning
  • check
    ​Compatible with most makes and models
  • check
    ​Integrated apps on the proprietary tablet
  • check
    ​Professional-grade diagnostic tools
  • check
    ​Track and chart data over time
  • check
    ​Monitor and reset all dashboard lights
  • check
    ​Automatic updates
  • check
    ​Wireless connection option

CONS

  • ​Operating system can be glitchy at times
  • ​May be missing some foreign makes and models

​Video

​5. Autel Maxisys MS908

Autel Maxisys MS908 mini review

Although we would suggest the Elite Diagnostic Tool, the MS908 is another excellent choice by Autel Maxisys. This company makes some of the best OBD2 scanners, so you can’t go wrong, no matter which one you choose. Let’s see what this unit has to offer.

Product Highlights

Live Scanning

For the most part, one of the better functions of modern OBD2 scanners is the ability to monitor your car’s systems in real-time. The reason this is such a useful feature is that it allows you to check on your vehicle and pinpoint any potential problems that may arise in the future.

As with the Elite version, you can track and chart this data over time for even easier monitoring and diagnostics.

Instant Updates

If you’re ever worried about your scanner becoming obsolete, you can worry no more with the MS908. It will sync to the internet automatically so that it’s always up to date.

80 Makes and Models

With so many brands and cars in its memory banks, you’re sure to find yours without any issues. It includes foreign and domestic makes and models, and it continually updates the codes so that they’re always accurate.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Live stream vehicle data
  • check
    ​Professional-grade diagnostic tool
  • check
    ​Rugged tablet is built to last
  • check
    ​Over 80 makes and models
  • check
    ​Instant updates
  • check
    ​Wireless connectivity

CONS

  • ​Wireless may be spotty in some cases
  • ​Tablet may freeze and need to reboot on rare occasions

​Video

​6. BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader

BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader short review

We’ve already seen a wireless OBD2 scanner from Bluedriver, but this model from BAFX works about the same. However, the most significant difference is that it doesn’t come with its own mobile app, so you have to find one that works. However, that can be an advantage in most situations.

Product Highlights

Bluetooth Connection

Overall, being able to diagnose and monitor your car remotely is such a benefit. Thus, rather than having to find your scanner, plug it in, and then wait for the data to come out, you’re always ready to go with your smartphone.

Compatible With All Makes and Models (Depending on the App You Choose)

Technically speaking, this scanner will work on all OBD2 compliant cars. However, since it doesn’t come with a proprietary app, the codes will be dependent on that. Thus, we suggest finding an app that has your make and model included.

Can Be Plugged In All the Time

Like with the Bluedriver model, you can keep this scanner connected. However, be sure to remove it if you’re not planning on driving for a while, as it will slowly draw power from the battery.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Wireless connection
  • check
    ​Works on all OBD2 cars
  • check
    ​Syncs with most third-party apps
  • check
    ​Can stay plugged in

CONS

  • ​Only available for Android devices
  • ​Doesn’t work with all apps

​Video

​7. ScanTool OBDLink LX

ScanTool OBDLink LX short review

Next, we have another wireless OBD2 scanner. Like the BAFX model above, this unit is designed to sync to third-party apps. Thus, if you can find a compatible version that has all of the features you need, this can be a useful tool for your car.

Product Highlights

Bluetooth Connection

As we’ve established, the ability to connect to your vehicle’s systems remotely is a huge benefit. This saves you a lot of time and energy, especially if you can pull up the app on your smartphone. It’s the ultimate in convenience.

Fast and Secure Syncing

Compared to other wireless OBD2 scanners, this tool is much faster. Thus, once you find and sync the app you like, you should be able to get the answers you need much more reliably than you would with other scanner models.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Wireless OBD2 scanner
  • check
    ​Compatible with most third-party apps
  • check
    ​Works on all newer Android or Windows devices
  • check
    ​Fast connection speeds
  • check
    ​Compatible with all OBD2 vehicles
  • check
    ​90-day money-back guarantee

CONS

  • ​Doesn’t work with iOS
  • ​Not compatible with all third-party apps

​Video

​8. Ancel AD 410

Ancel AD 410 short review

For the remainder of our OBD2 scanners, we’ll be looking at standard handheld units that plug into your car’s OBD2 port.

As we mentioned above, this style of device is ideal for those who are enthusiastic about monitoring their vehicle’s health but don’t necessarily want to do the repairs themselves.

Product Highlights

Backlit 2.5-Inch Screen

When using scanners like this, one issue that many of them seem to have is that the screen is way too small. Although 2.5 inches doesn’t sound like much, the layout of the screen is sufficient so that you can read the menu and the codes without any problems.

Lifetime Updates

As software gets older, it starts to break down and work less efficiently. Thankfully, all you have to do is plug this unit into your computer and download updates from the company’s site. Thus, this model will always be reliable.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Compact handheld scanner
  • check
    ​Works with most makes and models
  • check
    ​Fast and easy operation
  • check
    ​Backlit screen is easy to read
  • check
    ​Intuitive menu controls for more convenience
  • check
    ​Rugged housing is built to last
  • check
    ​Print reports from the device
  • check
    ​Lifetime software updates

CONS

  • ​Only diagnoses check engine issues
  • ​In rare cases, the system may freeze and have to be rebooted

​Video

​9. Autel AL519 AutoLink Enhanced

Although we’ve seen the best that Autel has to offer, the versions above were designed for mechanics or hardcore car enthusiasts. Thus, if you’re more of a casual OBD2 scanner, then this is a much better option for you.

Product Highlights

Rugged, Compact Scan Tool

Although it’s not as large or as easy to read as a tablet, this tool is just as robust and ready to go as the other Autel models we’ve seen. Also, the layout of the screen is still excellent, meaning that it’s easy to read your codes and navigate through the menu.

Live Data Graphing

Unlike other “standard” scan tools, this one allows you to monitor your car’s health in real-time. While you can’t track the data as extensively as you could on the tablet versions, the AL519 still enables you to graph it so that it’s easier to read and understand.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Diagnose check engine, ABS, and SRS lights
  • check
    ​Stream and graph live vehicle data
  • check
    ​Compact and rugged design
  • check
    ​Large, easy-to-read backlit screen
  • check
    ​Lifetime free updates
  • check
    ​Works on most makes and models
  • check
    ​Intuitive menu controls

CONS

  • ​In rare cases, the unit may not sync correctly to the website
  • ​May not work with some newer makes and models

​Video

​10. Innova 3100j

We’ve already seen what an Innova OBD2 scanner can do, but if you want a slightly more intuitive version, then the 3100j is an excellent choice. While we’re not saying that this is better than the 3160, it does have some pretty neat features.

Product Highlights

Freeze Frame Data

Although this isn’t the same as live streaming, it still provides a helpful snapshot of your vehicle’s overall health. This data can then be used to diagnose potential problems that may arise later on. Simply put, it helps you be more proactive with your car.

Check Multiple Systems - Oil, Airbags, Etc.

Because this is a modern OBD2 scanner, you can diagnose far more than check engine lights. This version can also monitor your oil, tire pressure, and airbags, among other systems. Overall, it’s a more comprehensive version of the “standard” scan tool.

  • WHAT WE LIKE
  • WHAT WE DON'T LIKE
  • Pros/cons overview

PROS

  • check
    ​Compact handheld device
  • check
    ​Large, backlit screen
  • check
    ​Easy to use controls
  • check
    ​Freeze frame data for vehicle monitoring
  • check
    ​Diagnose and reset all dashboard lights
  • check
    ​Access to repair solutions online
  • check
    ​Free software updates

CONS

  • ​Not compatible with all makes and models
  • ​Software can be a little glitchy at times

​Video

OBD2 Scanner Buyer's Guide - Getting The Right Unit

obd2 scanner buyer's guide - getting the right unit @ obd2pros.com

Whether you’re a hardcore auto enthusiast or you just want a quick and easy way to diagnose what’s wrong with your car, having an OBD2 scanner is one of the best options for you.

These devices are handy for a variety of reasons, and they will help ensure that you get the most out of your vehicle. However, since there are so many models and options to choose from, how can you be sure that you’re picking the right one?

Today we want to talk about the various elements of OBD2 scanners so that you can make an informed decision. These tools can be highly useful, but not all of them may be as helpful as you need. If you ask any ASE Certified mechanic, they'll tell you how buying the right unit can make a massive difference.

How Does an OBD2 Scanner Work?

how do obd2 scanners work @ obd2pros.com

The way that this system works is that the device plugs into your car’s OBD2 port (underneath the steering column). It connects with the onboard computers that monitor your vehicle’s systems.

At its core, OBD2 is designed to diagnose your check engine light. Since there are so many components to the engine that can wear down over time, it’s impossible to have a different light for each section. Thus, the scanner will find out what’s happening and display it via code.

Initially, these devices simply showed the vehicle code without a description. This meant that you had to look up the code in a corresponding book to find out what was wrong. Fortunately, many modern versions will offer the code and what it means.

OBD1 vs. OBD2

obd1 vs obd2

Before 1996, if you wanted to figure out what was wrong with a vehicle, you had to take it to a mechanic. At the shop, they would test a bunch of different internal systems (engine, oil, fuel, etc.) to see if they could determine the source of the problem.

As you can imagine, this method of diagnostics was inefficient and costly, both for mechanics and consumers.

In 1991, California decided that to help curb emissions, they would create a standardized testing system for all new vehicles. Automakers had to make their new cars compliant with these standards, which would not only detect emissions, but any issues going on with the engine.

The original standard was called OBD1 (on-board diagnostics). However, it wasn’t standardized across the country until 1996, when OBD2 came out. This new system would be built-in to all new models and allow consumers and mechanics to determine any internal problems quickly and efficiently.

These days, OBD1 is obsolete, but if you have an older vehicle, it may still utilize the initial codes. Some scanners will have both OBD1 and two capabilities, but if you drive anything newer than 1996, you won’t need them.

What to Look for in a Scanner

Modern OBD2 scanners are much more useful than they were originally. When comparing new models, you can find a wide range of features and benefits that will help you get the most out of your device. These are the elements we value the most.

Wired vs. Wireless Connections

Wired vs Wireless

Bluetooth technology is becoming more and more prevalent, which means that you can find scanners that can transmit data wirelessly to a receiver. Typically speaking, they communicate with an app on your tablet or smartphone.

The great thing about wireless scanners is that you can leave them plugged into your car, meaning that you can diagnose any issues while you’re out on the road. The downside, however, is that they may drain the battery, especially if you’re not driving for a few days.

Another issue that can happen with lower quality models is that the connection can be interrupted easily. Thus, trying to sync can take a while, or you may have to reboot your app to get it to work.

Overall, wired connections are more reliable, but if you get a high-quality wireless version, it will be much more convenient.

Code Reading

As we mentioned, the primary purpose of an OBD2 scanner is to give you codes for your check engine light. Simple models will only tell you the code, and some may or may not give you more information about what it means.

Usually, if the screen on your scanner is small, then there’s not enough room to define each code. Thus, you may want to get a model with a larger screen so that you can read the definitions more clearly.

Compatibility

Each auto manufacturer creates codes for all of their makes and models. Thus, while the OBD2 system is standardized, the codes are not.

When picking out the best scanning tool, you want to make sure that your vehicle is included. For the most part, these devices will have all of the major domestic brands, such as Toyota, Ford, and Honda. However, if you have a foreign or specialty car, you’ll probably have to look for a scanner that’s built for that particular brand.

Live Scanning

One improvement that modern scanners have is that they allow you to check on your car’s performance. Since onboard computers are much more advanced than they were in 1996, you can monitor all of your vehicle’s systems at once.

Live scanning is a powerful tool because it can help you track your vehicle’s operation over time, as well as pinpoint any potential problems before they become an issue. For example, you can diagnose why your car is losing gas mileage.

Data Tracking

Modern scanners can provide a wealth of information about your car. However, if you’re not a mechanic, it can be difficult to understand what it all means.

Thus, you will want to get a unit that shows the data in clear, easy-to-read graphs and charts. Also, you should be able to monitor this data over time so that you can see any changes as they occur and use that information to your advantage.

Repair Manuals

Although OBD2 scanners can tell you what’s wrong with your engine (and clear the check engine light), that doesn’t mean that you know what to do to fix it.

Fortunately, many high-end scanning tools offer repair manuals and forums online. This way, you can not only discover the issue but how to correct it yourself.

If you’re a hands-on car enthusiast, having access to these manuals will be invaluable, and they can save you a ton of money by avoiding the mechanic for small issues.

Will My Scanner Work for My Vehicle?

will my scanner work with my car

One of the most significant issues that people experience with OBD2 scanners is that they don’t have the codes for their particular make and model. As we discussed above, if you have a car that isn’t one of the major domestic brands, you can’t buy just any scanner and assume it will work.

In some cases, it may be better to get a tool that is designed specifically for your brand. For example, some scanners are made only for Audi or BMW vehicles and nothing else.

Getting a model like this will not only ensure that it’s compatible with your car, but it will make it easier to find the right codes since there aren’t dozens of other brands in the system. Overall, you can work more efficiently this way.

Types of OBD2 Scanners

what are the different types of scanners in the market

Code Readers

If you’re looking for something simple and cost-effective, then a standard code reader should be sufficient. However, the quality of these devices can vary, so we recommend comparing different units to be sure that you get the best one for your needs.

As we’ve discussed, one issue with code readers is that they will only tell you the code, meaning that you have to look it up, either online or in a codebook to find out what’s going on. Other models may give you a small description, but depending on the problem that may not be sufficient either.

Ideally, you will get a code reader that can thoroughly explain what the code means.

These models are much more efficient, although because they typically have a larger screen, they may be a little more expensive.

Displayed: Autel MS309 Code Reader

Scan Tools

For those who want to get more out of their cars, a scan tool is an invaluable option when comparing OBD2 scanners. These models are designed to provide insight into your vehicle’s performance by allowing you to monitor your engine and other internal systems in real-time.

High-end scan tools will also allow you to connect to your car’s ECU system, which can sometimes enable you to adjust performance metrics (such as fuel efficiency). While we don’t recommend toying with your ECU if you’re not sure what you’re doing, it can be a powerful way to upgrade your car without having to go to a professional body shop.

As you can imagine, scan tools are usually pricier than code readers, but they offer so many more features, so the cost is generally worth it. However, if you have no interest in diving deep into your car’s inner systems, then it may not be ideal.

Benefits of Having an OBD2 Scanner

Regardless of the type of scanner you get, the primary question you have to ask is, why do I need this? We’ve covered some of the highlights of owning one of these devices, but let’s discuss the benefits more in-depth.

No Unnecessary Mechanic Visits

If you’ve ever taken your car into the shop because the check engine light was on, you know that it can be a waste of time and money. Unfortunately, because this light can cover such a wide range of issues, you’re never sure if it’s something serious or something you can fix on your own.

With an OBD2 scanner, you can figure out what the problem is beforehand and reset the light if necessary, meaning that you can save your trip to the mechanic for when it really counts.

Learn More About Your Vehicle

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or you just want to be more proficient at maintaining your vehicle, an OBD2 scanner will be an invaluable tool for you.

Ideally, you will get a model that provides you with repair manuals as well as detailed code descriptions so that you can start fixing minor problems on your own. Over time, the more fixes you do yourself, the more confident you’ll be in keeping your car in pristine condition.

Smog Check

Most states require that cars pass the DEQ test, which can be a bit of an issue for older vehicles. When you have an OBD2 scanner, you can do this test in your own garage, meaning that you can make sure that you’ll pass before you take it in. If it’s not looking good, then you can get the problem fixed first, thus saving you time, money, and hassle.

Compatibility With New Vehicles

For many of us, we’ll own multiple cars over our lifetimes. However, just because you upgraded to a newer model doesn’t mean that you should have to buy a new scanner.

Fortunately, many modern OBD2 scanners come with tons of codes, which means that you should be ready to go every time you purchase a new vehicle.

However, if you want to avoid the issue altogether, you should get a model that comes with lifetime updates. This means that as new codes come out for different makes and models, you will always be able to check on them.

What Problems Does an OBD2 Scanner Detect?

When these devices first came out, they were designed for smog check and your check engine light. Fortunately, many new versions also include other internal systems, such as airbags and brakes.

Here is a breakdown of the kinds of codes you may find in your OBD2 scanner. Please note that this is not a complete list, follow this link for a list of all the obd 2 diagnose codes.

  • ​Check Engine Codes
  • ​Camshaft position or misalignment
  • ​Heater control circuit
  • check
    ​Oxygen sensors
  • check
    ​Ambient air temperature
  • check
    ​Intake and exhaust valves
  • check
    ​Air flow circuit
  • check
    ​Manifold absolute pressure
  • check
    ​Barometric pressure
  • check
    ​Engine coolant temperature
  • check
    ​Throttle position sensor
  • check
    ​Fuel composition sensor
  • check
    ​Airbag Codes
  • check
    ​Airbag circuit shortage
  • check
    ​Low battery voltage
  • check
    ​Improper airbag mount
  • check
    ​Primary crash sensor
  • check
    ​Other Codes
  • check
    ​Oil Pressure
  • check
    ​Anti Lock Braking System (ABS)
  • check
    ​Transmission
  • check
    ​Emissions

As you can see, many different problems can be diagnosed with an OBD2 scanner. Since there are so many intricate components inside your car, it’s imperative that you pinpoint the problem before addressing it.

What Kind of Scanner Should I Buy?

Handheld

These are the most ubiquitous models on the market, and they are the most convenient. Since they are compact and lightweight, you can usually keep them handy, including inside your glove compartment if you like.

The primary issue with handheld scanners is that they come with smaller screens. However, newer models are larger than older ones, so that may not be a problem for some people.

Software-Based

In this case, the scanner itself sends the data to a software program, either on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Thus, rather than reading the codes on the device itself, you can browse through them on a larger screen.

Typically speaking, software-based scanners are ideal for professional-grade needs. They will offer access to repair manuals and other features that you won’t be able to get with a handheld device.

That being said, you have to make sure that your device is compatible with the software before buying it. In some instances, the manufacturer may provide you with a mobile device (i.e., a tablet), but usually, you have to have your own.

Bluetooth/Wireless

Although some handheld or software-based scanners allow you to connect remotely, Bluetooth scanners are technically different.

The way that these devices work is that the scanning part plugs into your car and sends data to a corresponding app. In some cases, the app may be proprietary to the manufacturer, but usually, you have to download a third-party version to read the information from the scanner.

Typically speaking, these scanners are meant to stay plugged in at all times, but one of the risks can be that they will drain your car’s battery. Some models will shut off automatically to avoid this issue, but not all of them do.

Overall, these scanners are convenient, but they can sometimes have connection issues, so we recommend testing them out before making a final decision.

Displayed: Bluedriver B​luetooth.

Professional vs. Consumer-Grade

The fact is that OBD2 scanners are used in mechanic shops all over the place. Since your mechanic can’t usually tell what’s going on beneath the hood based on a dashboard light, he or she has to use one of these devices to diagnose the problem.

Thus, when picking out the best OBD2 scanner, you can get the same model that the pros use. Typically speaking, professional-grade devices will include-

  • ​Multi-Vehicle Data Tracking
  • ​Lifetime Code Updates
  • ​Repair Manuals for Each Code Section
  • check
    ​Universal Compatibility (Foreign and Domestic Cars)
  • check
    ​Live Scanning and Data Graphing

Usually, these scanners will be a little more expensive than consumer-grade models, so keep that in mind. Also, if you’re not planning on doing many of the repairs yourself, then having access to all of this data may be pointless. In that case, a code reader should be sufficient.

Best OBD2 Scanner Brands in the Market

best obd2 scanner brands in the market

Now that we know more about how these scanners work and why you should have one let’s see what options are available. While we won’t discuss particular models, here are the top brands that we highly recommend.

TOAD stands for Total Onboard Auto Diagnostics. This company only makes one OBD2 scanner, but it’s so incredible that they don’t have to make any others.

What sets TOAD apart from the competition is that it’s designed to be the ultimate diagnostic tool. Not only is it compatible with almost every make and model in the world, but it offers extensive repair manuals and forums to help users fix their issues.

TOAD is definitely professional-grade, meaning that any hardcore car enthusiasts will love all of the features it provides. For example, you can tune your vehicle’s ECU to maximize your performance!

This scanner is also software-based, meaning that you have to download it from the internet. However, you can connect wirelessly to your car, making it much more convenient overall.

The only downside to TOAD is that it just monitors check engine codes. Thus, if you want to pay attention to other systems like ABS, airbags, and tire pressure, you’ll have to buy another scanner to do so.

Website: totalcardiagnostics.com

When it comes to professional-grade, app-based scanners, Autel is one of the top brands on the market. This company also makes handheld code readers, so no matter your skill level or intentions, you should be able to find a model that works for you.

If you decide on one of the more high-end models, then you can expect to get a rugged tablet that comes with a variety of proprietary apps. These programs allow you to scan your car in real-time, as well as access a database of codes and descriptions.

Founded in 2004, one nice thing about the company is that it only makes automotive diagnostic tools. Thus, with a focus on the industry and years of experience in creating high-quality products, you can be sure that you’ll enjoy any scanner that they offer.

Website: https://www.auteltech.com/

When you look at the products lineup for Innova, you’ll see that they are almost exclusively handheld scanners. Unlike Autel that uses tablets and software to get the job done, Innova utilizes standard OBD2 technology.

Fortunately, even though their devices are all handheld, that doesn’t mean that they’re limited in scope. Many of the higher-end units offer more diagnostic tools, such as real-time scanning and data tracking.

To help you manage the information, you can usually connect your device to the computer. Overall, Innova OBD2 scanners are both convenient and easy to use, making them ideal for car enthusiasts of all skill levels.

Like Autel, this company produces both handheld code readers and app-based diagnostic tools. Launch Tech has a lineup of rugged tablets that come with a variety of proprietary programs to help you diagnose what’s wrong with your vehicle.

Located in Ontario, CA, this company utilizes some of the most high-tech software and tools to make their products even more user-friendly. They offer both professional and consumer-grade scanners, although their price points are typically higher. However, the quality reflects the price, so keep that in mind.

Website: http://launchtechusa.com/

If you’re looking for code readers and other mechanical diagnostic tools, then Actron is one of the best companies out there. While they also have app-based scanners that sync to your smartphone, most of their lineup includes standard handheld code readers.

Fortunately, these models will usually give you a description of what’s wrong so that you don’t have to look it up later.

Also, they offer a variety of automotive diagnostic tools, including mechanical devices that let you check various internal systems, such as oil pressure.

Website: https://actron.com/

Conclusion

If you're in the market for a new toy, you'll definitely want to spend your money wisely.  If we had only one product to recommend that would be the Total Car Diagnostics software. If your budget is a bit bigger and you are looking for a dedicated unit, the Autel Maxisys Elite is certainly the way to go, but if you just want an inexpensive a versatile solution, then the Bluedriver is what you want to buy.

I'm hoping this page helped you find the best obd2 scanner for your particular needs!

Best OBD2 Scanners in 2019 (Top Picks, Reviews & Comparisons)
5 (100%) 6 vote[s]

Summary
Best OBD2 Scanners in 2019 (Top Picks, Reviews &  Comparisons)
Article Name
Best OBD2 Scanners in 2019 (Top Picks, Reviews & Comparisons)
Description
Diagnosing a car CAN be easy. A proper OBD2 scanner should not only give you the code, but the meaning and how to tackle it. We have spent countless hours testing over 200 units, and here are the 10 we recommend.
Author
Publisher Name
obd2pros.com
Publisher Logo