The best OBD2 scanners are car diagnostic tools for mechanics or car enthusiasts. They are now available in their hundreds, but the best diagnostic car scan tools need to be reliable as they generally cover multiple car models and brands.
From check engine fault codes to state emissions readiness check, there are many benefits to having a personal OBD2 scanner. With many scanners which come with wireless connectivity, users can also directly input all of the readings directly to their smartphones via dedicated apps. The good news is that all of the best diagnostic car scan tools are able to read any type of error code on most vehicles made over the past 10-20 years. The following OBD2 scanners have already proven this.
- Top 10 Best OBD2 Scanners 2021
- 1. BAFX Products Bluetooth Car Diagnostic OBDII Reader
- 2. BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone & Android
- 3. Autel AL319 OBD2 CAN Code Reader
- 4. Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner
- 5. FIXD OBD-II Active Car Health Monitor & Professional Scan Tool
- 6. Panlong Bluetooth OBD2 OBDII Car Diagnostic Scanner
- 7. Launch Engine Light Check OBD2 Scanner
- 8. OBD2 OBD Scanner Professional Diagnostic Car Scanner Tool
- 9. OxGord OBD2 Scanner Code Reader
- 10. Ancel FX4000 All System Automotive
- I’ve never used an OBD2 scanner, is it safe to use a scanner on my car?
- My scanner seems stuck, how long should I wait for it to power up?
- I only plan to use it occasionally, it buying an OBD2 worth it?
- Can I use the diagnostic car tool on my family’s cars?
- Where do I need to plug in the scanner?
- There’s no CD in the kit, how do I see the codes?
- Are OBD2 scanners covered by warranty?
- Is my scanner as reliable as that of my mechanics’?
- What happens if a warning light comes on after I deleted it?
- Guide to Buying the Best OBD2 Scanners
Top 10 Best OBD2 Scanners 2021
Made with great compatibility, the OBDII Reader can be used on all vehicles made since 1996. It can be used by car owners who want to take matters into their own hands as well as by car mechanics as it works on all car brands. The reader is also compatible with the diesel, petrol, and hybrids, which means it will work from one type of engine to another without the need of additional readers.
The OBDII reader works with third-party apps. While it does the reading, the information needs to be displayed on a smartphone app. These apps could be Carista, Torque or Scan Master. There is more to be said about the types of apps its compatible with. However, users need to keep in mind the scanner works with Android and Windows devices as it has a separate release for iOs mobile devices.
Made with a compact design, the scanner can remain in the car at all times as drivers won’t have to worry about storage space too much. Of course, it also needs to be paired with a smartphone. For example, those who want to see real-time diagnostics might need to consider an app which supports this characteristic.
Most importantly, the OBDII Reader is truly capable when it comes to reading check engine lights. This light can indicate a series of problems. O2 sensors, fuel trim, DPF temp, coolant temp, oil temp, fuel pressure, and the air-fuel ratio can be behind the check engine light warning. Apart from immediate mechanical or electric problems, the light can also stop cars from passing emission testing. In some countries, this light means all cars are immediately failed for their regular inspection. The check engine light can be anything from a small sensor to a gas cap.
The diagnostic car scan tool allows users to reset the check engine light, once the problem has been solved. Once all faults are fixed, drivers or mechanics can also check that the vehicle is ready for emissions’ testing.
Since all the best diagnostic car scan tools come with their limitations, BAFX’s Bluetooth Scanner also has a few limiting factors. First of all, it’s only made for Android and Windows users. Secondly, the scanner needs to be paired with a dedicated third-party app. But the good news is that pairing is done wirelessly, via Bluetooth connectivity.
As one of the most constant OBD2 scanners, the device has proven its worth across multiple car brands.
- Made with a compact size
- Suitable for all vehicles made since 1996
- Made for Check Engine light fault codes
- Can be used for real-time monitoring
- Not compatible with Apple smartphones
BlueDriver is one of the most popular OBDII scanners in its category. While it is not the most affordable, it may still save drivers’ money as it comes with a dedicated app, free reports and complete readings which go beyond the standard Check Engine fault codes.
Made with a compact design, the scanner can be installed with no wires and no tools. Its scanning is then transmitted to a smartphone as it manages to connect to mobile devices with no cables, based on its Bluetooth connectivity.
There are no compatibility issues with the OBDII scanner. It works for Android and iOs devices connecting in seconds. The app immediately matches the vehicle’s brand and model. All error codes are then transmitted to the smartphone.
One of the distinct convenient features of the car scanner tool comes with its fixes suggestions. Since some car fault codes can have multiple problems, this can offer driver and mechanics an immediate list of root causes. With a database including thousands of such fixes, the scanner is more user-friendly than its competition from this perspective.
Live data is also possible via the official app, which is included in the price. Under graph, gauge, or digital display, this can be useful for real-time diagnosis. All the basic vehicle information can be accessed as well. This information includes maintenance schedules, recalls and technical service bulletins.
When it comes to advanced features, not many drivers expect something special from such a compact tool. But this is not the case as the OBDII scanner comes with professional features. One of these is the misfire counts feature. Other more popular features such as emission-readiness testing are also available.
All of these readings can be saved. Drivers can send them to their mechanic for a professional’s interpretation. Drivers can also keep the readings for their own car’s record. As an all-in-one solution, the OBDII scanner offers some premium features and many of the standard functionalities of a future-proof scanner.
As a one-stop scanner, BlueDriver is compatible with all modern cars and all modern smartphones for data interpretation and display.
- Reads Check Engine and all other fault code
- Offers code definition and possible causes
- Included Smog Check feature
- Advanced misfire counts functionality
- Limited on some electric codes like electric mirror faults
With a distinct design, the OBD2 and CAN reader is suitable for those who don’t want a scanner which connects to smartphones. All readings are actually shown on the digital display, which makes it one of the most reliable tools even when on the road. Used by both professionals or simple drivers in need of a diagnostic tool, the scanner connects via a wire for quick readings.
With the help of a bright LCD display and of the built-in speakers, the visual and audio indications make the scanner quite functional. It works for P0, P2, P3, U0, and manufacturer-specific codes. It also works to determine the cause of the Check Engine light, which has multiple root problems behind it.
Suitable for vehicles made since 1996, the scanner has wide compatibility. All of these cars have general and specific codes which are read by the scanner. Once their problems have been fixed, the scanner can also delete the codes.
Apart from reading all generic and specific codes, the scanner also comes with a one-click readiness test function. This is mainly suitable before taking the car in for an inspection. The function offers immediate readings on emissions, which is one of the most important areas of focus for regular vehicle inspection. However, even with these functions, it is still advisable to go through a general bin file update, especially for newer vehicles.
With the help of the LCD display and audible signals, the scanner is mainly suitable for at-home use.
- Made with an LCD display
- Suitable for Check Engine codes
- Works with general and manufacturer-specific codes
- Offers one-click vehicle readiness verification
- Requires frequent updates
As one of the scanners build for durability, the NT301 impresses with its simplicity and ruggedness. It is also why it can be suitable for mechanics as well, as professionals need a stronger body for multiple daily uses.
Dominated by a modern LCD screen, the scanner is easy to use. All of the essential functions can be controlled and viewed on this screen. Accurately determining the causes of the Check Engine light is one of its main function. All fault code definitions are displayed automatically. So drivers or mechanics do not have to search the internet for these definitions and they can save time as a result.
There are many convenient features on the OBD2 scanner. It supports a misfire monitor, a fuel system monitor, a catalyst monitor, and others. Those seeking to keep an eye on the cooling system can do so using the scan tool. Air conditioning monitoring, oxygen sensors, and heater monitoring are supported.
But other convenient features also include multi-language support. Since the scanner is aimed at global users, it can offer code definitions directly in the selected language. One of its features which make it similar to the scanners found on the market includes the emissions testing. This is where the built-in speakers indicate the status of the emissions. Furthermore, with early warning systems, it is among the strongest versions on the market to prevent vehicle problems, become they turn from small to major.
Made with a large screen and extra protection on the edges, the OBD2 scanner is suitable for those seeking durability.
- Shows data in graph and text form
- Based on a modern digital display
- Made with durable materials
- Catches and saves intermittent problems
- Needs the latest updates
The scanner is probably one of the most compacts in its class. With a simple and modern design, it uses no cables as it connects to all smartphones immediately. All drivers need to do is to actually plug the scanner into the car’s port and synchronize the device with their smartphone via Bluetooth. There is an official app which is offered at no extra cost. The app can also track multiple vehicles. So the scanner might also be recommended for families as a result.
The most important scan feature includes Check Engine functionality. The OBD2 scanner detects the root cause of the light. All of the codes are then wirelessly transmitted to the smartphone. But the scanner also comes with additional features, which might see it being used more often than expected. One of the areas where it can come with great results is with its continuous monitoring.
But the scanner also includes an automatic mileage detection feature. It is a practical feature for those seeking alerts for upcoming service intervals. Multi-vehicle detection is also possible, based on the functionality of the app which can save the information on multiple cars.
A typical code reading comes with unique information. The severity level of the code is shown. The consequences of the code are also given to the driver. A 2-3 sentence definition is also given in order to properly understand each code. Some of the codes which are seen often also come with explanatory videos on their fixes.
With complex technology, the scanner is suitable for all the cars of a family. It shows all the information on the codes and the steps needed to fix them.
- Based on wireless data transfer
- Detects all codes
- Show a maintenance timeline
- Comes with mileage detection
- The app needs to be more user-friendly
Without a doubt, the diagnostic scanner is one of the most compacts in its class. Among the important characteristics, it manages to include Bluetooth connectivity which allows it to work without any cables. The scanner is fully functional when it comes to reading fault codes. But it does this is a small package, perfect for the occasional user.
While the scanner might not be the next hit for a mechanic, it offers sufficient features and ease of use for the average driver who only needs to use such a tool from time to time. The installation process is quite short. All drivers need to do is to simply connect the tool to the car and synchronize it to the smartphone once. The scanner does the rest on its own beyond this point.
Supporting all vehicles made after 1996, the scanner is useful for cars such as Subaru, Skoda, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, Audio, Porsche and others. Its main functionality lies with the Check Engine light. It is here that users are able to find the problems which may be variable for their cars. The scanner can also display all sensor data and switch off various warning lights in the dashboard once the problems have been solved.
Real-time monitoring is possible as well. It supports coolant temperature, throttle position, engine RPM, intake manifold pressure, oxygen sensor voltage, fuel pressure, ignition timing advance and other parameters. All of this data can be actually viewed on the smartphone via an app. There is no included app with the OBD2 so users will have to download apps such as Torque to see the best results. Based on Bluetooth connectivity, all of these apps can be compatible with the scanner.
The scanner is a solution for those who need a modern tool with a compact design, perfect for occasional use.
- Connects via Bluetooth
- Offers real-time monitoring
- Suitable for all vehicles
- Displays current sensors’ data
- Can take up to a few minutes to connect
The OBD2 scanner is an affordable option. But most users would not be able to tell that it is actually made to be one of the cheapest in its class. Even if it is so affordable, it still includes the 10 popular scanning modes OBD2 scanners come with.
Its design is functional. It works with most modern cars. Suitable for American cars made after 1996, the scanner also works with European cars made after the year 2000. Asian cars are compatible after 2008. All of these cars are actually scanned following the same steps. The plug-and-play feature of the scanner allows it to be directly connected with a cable. The DLC connector of the car is usually situated around the dash, but users need to check their user’s manual to find it. If the connection is successful, the code reader will work automatically, without the need for extra batteries as it will actually be powered by the car’s battery.
Apart from reading the Check Engine errors, the scanner also works for another purpose. It reads the I/M readiness test to ensure the car is actually within the legal emissions ranges. All of the vehicle’s real-time parameters can be monitored as well.
With them, users can view the operating parameters stored when DTC is connected. At the same time, the scanner can undergo a leak test for the vehicles EVAP system. But the scanner can also be used when purchasing a second-hand car. Connecting it to the new car will ensure the new owner has its VIN, CIN, and CVNS information. With a small 1,77” TFT screen, the scanner will also limit energy consumption from the car’s battery while retrieving this information.
The compact 200g scanner is made for most modern cars. It retrieves all fault codes to offer a quick response to the questions drivers might have.
- Made with a small digital display
- Low energy consumption
- Based on all 10 OBDII scan modes
- Supports up to 7 languages
- No wireless connectivity
With such a compact design, the car scan tool is among the reliable products for quick diagnosis. Of course, it is not the most complex OSBD2 scanner which means it might also not be the best for professionals. But for general Check Engine codes, it is one of the straightforward options.
There is a simple backlit digital display on the car scan tool. It is one of the smallest displays in the class, but it does its job even in low light conditions, eliminating the need for smartphone connectivity. Since it is so small, it can also be a traveling solution or a tool which can be borrowed to other fellow drivers as it fits all cars.
One of the most convenient aspects of the scanner comes with the Check Engine codes, which can be deleted once the problem is solved. Simply diagnosing the issue at home can save drivers money. But the drivers don’t need to be mechanics to diagnose the issues themselves. They can connect the 16-pin connector to the CPU and the scanner do its job.
Since the diagnostic tool is small, many users expect it to be slow. But it’s actually the opposite as it can come with fast results when properly connected. The scanner is mechanic-approved which means its results are dependable.
But the product is also backed by great customer service. Even drivers state that the company does its best if there’s something wrong with the tool of when drivers don’t understand certain codes and what they require.
Customer care also goes further than this. The scanner is covered by a 1-year warranty. During this period, there is a money-back guarantee in case the scanner is not able to detect the fault codes of a certain car.
With a compact design and great customer support, the OBD2 scanner is one of the leading options for quick scanning.
- Fits in the palm
- Includes a small display
- Suitable for all cars
- Reads codes in seconds
- Limited user controls
Some drivers don’t want to deal with laptops, extra batteries and all the hassle which comes as a result. It is why these drivers can consider OxGord’s design for constant performance with no complicated accessories. The small scanner powers from the car’s 16-pin DLC port which mean even its backlit screen won’t need any extra batteries.
Supporting all OBD2 protocols, the small scan tool is suitable for most modern cars. By American standards, it works on cars in production after 1996. It works on estates, SUV and small trucks. On these cars, drivers can use the tool themselves. Since it only comes with a few controls, the scanner is recommended for easy menu navigation even if the driver has not used a car scanner before.
With over 3.000 generic error code definitions, the reader is suitable for typical faults. If most of them are very direct with their own warning light, Check Engine codes don’t have their own warning light. This is why it takes an OBD2 scanner to find out the various faults which can be behind this warning light.
The device works on most code reading needs, apart from ABS codes. These codes can also be erased from the OBD2 scanner. However, there rarely is a point in doing so until the actual fault has been addressed as the warning light will soon turn on again. A freeze frame feature is available as well.
Drivers with older cars might know it’s hard to say goodbye to their vehicle and they can have some hiccups at the emissions test especially. It is why the scanner offers immediate emission testing to see what the vehicle owners can expect.
With impressive results, the reliable car scan tool offers impressive results for Check Engine codes with over 3.000 generic definitions.
- Made with a compact size
- Designed with a backlit LCD display
- Based on 3.000 generic codes
- Requires no batteries
- Menu navigation buttons not very smooth
Arguably the most modern design in its class, the scan tool is one of the most interesting choices for the home and professional user. It features an ergonomic design and it also works as a solution for everyday use with its rubberized edges. Mechanics or car electricians can use it without fearing drops.
Most importantly, the compact scanner comes with left and right controls, which are activated by each hand. It might require both hands for complete readings, but at the same time, it offers a lot in return. This is why it even features a function button which can be attributed to one of its many scan modes and functions. Directional buttons are also added to make menu navigation easier. In a sense, it is designed similarly to a console controller which puts the user experience first.
One of the most convenient features of the scanner is the SRS airbag reader. If the warning light is activated on the dashboard, it means that the SRS airbag-controlling system sees an issue with the airbags. The scanner can be used to check for the cause of the problem. It can be any of the multiple airbags fitted in a modern car. This should be done as soon as possible as it could save lives. If the warning light is one, there is a high chance of an airbag malfunction in case of an accident.
Another important function comes with the oil reset deleted light mode. Oil reset intervals are regular. Depending on the car, they can even be made a couple of times per year. Short life oil and long life engine oil have different servicing intervals. But changing the oil should always be done on time. In some cases, the oil light can also be activated if the oil level is too high, which happens in engines where the owner adds too much oil between service intervals. This is where the scan tool can prove useful.
Transmission checks are also performed by the scanner. They are particularly useful to those seeking the ultimate level of freedom when it comes to the state of their automatic transmission. It is known that the repair cost of an automatic gearbox can sometimes exceed the value of the car. This is why keeping it in good condition is essential.
With a simple profile, customization options, and a design which is made for the first-time user, the scan tool is a worthy investment for any car owner.
- Made with a sleek design
- Offers button customization
- Reads automatic transmission errors
- Suitable for SRS airbag control
- Might require operation with both hands
I’ve never used an OBD2 scanner, is it safe to use a scanner on my car?
Using an OBD2 scanner is safe on most cars and in most situations. They can only read codes or delete codes, as a result, they don’t actually intervene in how the car works, but rather in what the car is signaling to the driver.
My scanner seems stuck, how long should I wait for it to power up?
Some cheaper scanners can take a long time to power up. This can even pass the 2-minute mark. Other diagnostic car scan tools can power on within minutes.
I only plan to use it occasionally, it buying an OBD2 worth it?
Most drivers can save money, even if they plan to only use a scanner on occasion. Simply going in for a quick diagnosis can cost a lot with some dealerships. In other situations, an OBD2 scanner can actually be used on multiple cars, so they can be purchased among friends.
Can I use the diagnostic car tool on my family’s cars?
The best OBD2 scanners can be used on multiple cars. Not all cars in a family need their own scanner as multiple car brands are covered with the right updates.
Where do I need to plug in the scanner?
The OBD port is situated inside the car. Its position may vary according to the manufacturer. Drivers can find the exact location of the port indicated in the owner’s manual.
There’s no CD in the kit, how do I see the codes?
Some scanners don’t need to be installed on a laptop. They actually connect to a smartphone if they have no screen in many cases.
Are OBD2 scanners covered by warranty?
All electronics are warranty-covered. An OBD2 scanner comes with a warranty between 1 and 2 years. Other policies can include a money-back guarantee.
Is my scanner as reliable as that of my mechanics’?
All the best OBD2 scanners are reliable and they are used by mechanics in some cases. Even if they are not as complex, they might still come with the exact results as the mechanic’s scanner.
What happens if a warning light comes on after I deleted it?
If a problem is not fixed and its warning light deleted, the light will come back on immediately or even after a day. It is why all problems first need to be fixed before deleting error codes.
Guide to Buying the Best OBD2 Scanners
Making the right purchase is important as it is rare for an OBD2 scanner to be updated. It is why some of the best products on the market are actually future-proof as they can last for years. Most of them can also be updated on their manufacturer’s website. The following criteria might still need to be considered when making a purchase.
Ease of use
One of the main concerns new users have is with ease of use. It is actually easy to understand why, as many drivers can associate diagnostic car scan tools with what they see at their mechanics’. But things can be different today.
From a few simple buttons to programmable controls, users should be able to find the easiest ways to deal with their car’s codes as there are many great designs to consider. The older the car, the more diagnostic tests might need to be run to deal with the various issues which might appear, from Check Engine warnings to ABS errors.
Connectivity options are mainly wired or wireless, if the scanner is actually made to send out data to a computer or a smartphone. Some of the newest scanners come with included Bluetooth connectivity which allows drivers of all ages to set their own standards when it comes to data transfer. This is best seen when this data is interpreted with an app that users choose, as many scanners are compatible with the high number of mobile apps on offer.
Types of codes
Scanners can read different types of codes. Some of them might actually be general codes, which are the Check Engine codes, specific to what most cars can go through. At the same time, more specific codes can apply from car to car. This is why it’s actually important to find the right option for the type of codes to consider. A general scanner should be enough when drivers have no specific requirements.
Car and smartphone compatibility
Some OBD2 scanners are now compatible with smartphones. Both Android and iOs have corresponding scanners to use. At the same time, most scanners are made to work on most cars. If they are now recognizing a specific type of car, a simple updated can fix this in many cases. But most American, European and Asian cars are recognized and diagnosed immediately.
Looking at the list of features modern scan tools come with is enough to offer a better perspective on compatibility possibilities. A good scanner might be needed when Bluetooth connectivity is important, as this wireless data transfer method is still not offered as standard on most scanners.
Another important aspect to consider is personal preference. In some cases, drivers prefer to have a built-in screen which eliminates the need for adding a smartphone and complicating the process even further. In those cases, it is important to find the right display as they are as modern as many users hop for at the moment.
Customization options are very limited on OBD2 scanners. Most of them are made to be user-friendly and not aimed at the professional. But in some cases, there are exceptions which can come in the form of volume control of Fn buttons which can be attributed to a certain action.
Users who like to get technical and who have a hands-on approach to gadgets are usually those who are set to do their best when it comes to customization. However, extra customization is generally added in premium products, which are actually suitable for mechanics.
Some of the best OBD2 scanners are now made to offer an immediate response to the various warning lights on the dashboard. They signal the root cause of the warning lights. It is why they are useful to all drivers at certain stages of their car’s ownership.
It takes time to schedule a car for diagnostics. But diagnostics are also not free some times and these two reasons are more than enough to prompt all drivers into purchasing their own car scanners. Since there are so many inspired options to consider, it is always a good idea to choose a product which can be stored somewhere in the car, so that it can be used anywhere.
It is also recommended to update all OBD2 scanners at the moment of purchase. Each scanner comes with its own indications when it comes to how the update process needs to be followed. However, the good news is that this process only takes a few minutes and it can bring the scanner up to date with the latest codes on the various car makes.