Seeing the check engine light turn on in a vehicle usually means it’s time for a test, or an onboard diagnostic (OBD). But if you don’t have the time – or the cash – to take the car into a repair shop, what’s the best OBD2 scanner to use at home?

This review takes a close look at five of the best OBD2 scanners available for purchase. We’ll also look at how diagnostic scanners function, what data they pull from vehicles, and offer a buyers guide for potential customers.

#1 Best Overall: Launch CRP129E Scan Tool

Overall Rating4.4 out of 5
Value5 out of 5
Ease of Use4 out of 5
Customer Satisfaction4.5 out of 5
Data Collection Capabilities4 out of 5

The Launch CRP129E Scan Tool is our choice for the overall best OBD2 scanner thanks to its abilities as a diagnostic tool and extensive features for the price. This 5.0-inch touchscreen comes with an internal battery, so you don’t have to keep the car running to use it. You can also graph live data, reset diagnostic trouble codes (DTC), and perform emissions tests.

One plus is that Launch offers free lifetime updates as long as you buy from an authorized dealer. The Launch CRP129E comes with data code protocols from nearly 60 carmakers and over 1,000 models, so this scanner likely knows something about your vehicle.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $260
  • WiFi compatible
  • Can email engine reports
  • Supports nine languages
  • Includes oil reset, steering angle calibration, and throttle position reset
  • Responsive high-definition touchscreen
  • Five-year warranty

What’s In The Box?

Included with the Launch CRP129E Scan Tool are:

  • Creader Professional 129E handset
  • OBDII diagnostic cable
  • 5V DC charging cable
  • User manual
  • Carrying bag

Our Experience

Launch CRP129E Scan Tool

The Launch has an easy-to-use touchscreen interface and a long connection cable. Some OBD2 scanners have shorter cables that make it difficult to hold the device in your lap once connected.

While the Launch includes many useful features and can perform various diagnostic tasks, it does require a WiFi connection. However, this connection doesn’t need to be persistent, it is only necessary to set up the device. We also found that the Launch takes a bit longer to start than some scanners, but the startup time is still relatively quick (just a couple of seconds longer than the other scanners we tested).

What Customers Are Saying

The Launch CRP129E Scan Tool is rated 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, based on more than 1,900 reviews. Customers appreciate the intuitive touchscreen and data accuracy.

“I plugged the scanner into my car, and it immediately found my problem and reset my computer. It reads every system in my car, from VIN number to transmission codes. It also hooks into my Wi-Fi and sends reports to my computer. The touchscreen is laid out logically, and it made my job easy.”

– Dr. Ken

On the downside, some customers report laggy customer service and say the device fails within a year. Another concern is that you must purchase certain features separately and renew them annually.

The Launch may not work with all vehicles, so check that it’s compatible with your make and model. For the backyard mechanic on a smaller budget, the Launch CRP129E is a solid choice.

#2 Best Bluetooth Scanner: BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool

Overall Rating4.6 out of 5
Value4.5 out of 5
Ease of Use5 out of 5
Customer Satisfaction4.5 out of 5
Data Collection Capabilities4.5 out of 5

The BlueDriver Bluetooth® Pro OBDII Scan Tool runs a smartphone-based diagnostics test. We chose this as the best Bluetooth OBD2 scanner because the manufacturer includes routine software updates for a free mobile app that works with Android smartphones and Apple iPhones.

This relatively simple system plugs the car scanner into your vehicle’s OBD2 port, which is usually located beneath the steering column. The BlueDriver connects via Bluetooth to the smartphone app, from which you can view live data reports from the engine and coolant systems. You can also perform a smog test with this scanner, and it will recommend possible repairs for specific codes.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $120
  • Quick and easy Bluetooth connectivity
  • Reads error codes and suggests repairs
  • Free app works with iOS and Android devices
  • A “set it and forget it” tool to record vehicle information

What’s In The Box?

The BlueDriver doesn’t come with any accessories besides the charging cable, and you will need a smartphone to use this OBD2 scanner.

Our Experience

BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool

The BlueDriver is one of the easiest-to-use OBD2 scanners we tested. You simply download the companion smartphone app and plug the scanner into your vehicle. Diagnostics and monitoring run through the app, which has a simple interface.

Along with conducting basic diagnostic tasks, you can set up customizable monitoring.

BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool

What Customers Are Saying

With almost 42,500 ratings, the BlueDriver is popular and has a solid 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Eighty percent of reviewers award the device 5 stars. This OBD2 scanner’s Bluetooth functionality, easy-to-use system, and technical support are popular with buyers.

“No joke, I work on cars all the time. I’ve had cheap scanners and snap-on scanners. For the price of this, you cannot go wrong. This little scanner reads not only engine codes, but also reads codes from transmission codes and BCM codes.”

– Keith S.

Some question the data’s reliability and say the device isn’t compatible with as many vehicles as advertised. A few of the BlueDriver’s features seem more limited on European cars.

“The scanner itself worked well on both a VAG Skoda and Hyundai. However, it seems disingenuous to sell this device at the full price in Europe when the advanced features don’t actually work on European model cars.”

– Al

#3 Best Budget Scanner: Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner

Overall Rating4 out of 5
Value5 out of 5
Ease of Use4 out of 5
Customer Satisfaction4 out of 5
Data Collection Capabilities3 out of 5

If your primary need for an OBD2 diagnostic tool is reviewing DTC codes, the Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner may be the best OBD2 scanner for you. The compact design features a 2.8-inch LCD color screen and a relatively quick loading time on data reports.

Besides pulling manufacturer-specific OBD2 codes, the I/M Readiness button in the center of the scanner offers a reasonably fast emissions test. Windows users can also use the USB cable to upload data from the scanner to their computers.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $70
  • DTC lookup
  • Three-stage LED test lights
  • Monitors misfires, fuel system, air conditioning, and oxygen sensors
  • USB port connection for downloadable reports

What’s In The Box?

In addition to the scanner, the Foxwell NT301 includes a USB cable that lets you connect the device to a computer to transfer data and download updates.

Our Experience

Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner

While the Foxwell doesn’t have as many diagnostic features as other OBD2 scanners, it is straightforward to use and comes at a low price. The device has a lightning-fast startup, and menu navigation is simple.

If you don’t want to spend much and simply want a device to help you read engine codes or do a quick smog check, this is probably the OBD2 scanner for you.

What Customers Are Saying

The Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner is a popular option on Amazon, with more than 20,000 ratings. On average, reviewers score the device 4.5 out of 5 stars, although some buyers say they’ve experienced connection issues. Positive reviews mention a readable owner’s manual and good value for the money.

“This analyzer totally performed to my expectations. Very simple and intuitive with minimal need for referencing the instruction book (which is pretty thorough).”

– CouchTater

One of the more significant downsides of this scanner – mentioned by several reviewers – is that there are numerous vehicles it doesn’t function with. Make sure your vehicle is compatible with this device. If you’re dealing with different cars, the Foxwell isn’t the best OBD2 scanner.

“This scanner works OK. It does not work on all cars, though. Specifically, it did not connect to a 2005 Mazda6, 1997 Ford F-150, or a 2005 Ford Taurus. It did work on my 2000 Pontiac Grand Am, 2005 Hyundai Accent, and 2000 Ford Mustang.”

– Dustin O.

#4 Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner

Overall Rating4.1 out of 5
Value3.5 out of 5
Ease of Use3.5 out of 5
Customer Satisfaction4.5 out of 5
Data Collection Capabilities5 out of 5

Professional mechanics on a budget will appreciate the Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner for toeing the line between advanced scanning features and business-friendly applications. This 7.0-inch HD touchscreen behemoth has a seven-hour battery life, so buyers aren’t tethered to the vehicle for work.

Autel updates the device for free for your first year of ownership, but it already comes with plenty of information about American, European, and Asian car brands. Also included is an app that stores automotive and customer data, so you get an OBD2 scanner and logbook all in one.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $480
  • One-step tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) check
  • Automatic vehicle identification number (VIN) lookup
  • Capacitive touchscreen
  • Customizable graph data
  • Supports microSD cards up to 32GB
  • Rugged carrying case

What’s In The Box?

The Autel MaxiCOM MK808 comes with several accessories, including:

  • Mini USB cable
  • USB external power adapter
  • Main cable
  • Carrying case

Our Experience

Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner

The Autel has a robust and expansive user interface. The touchscreen is easy to navigate, and the device comes with a wide array of features that includes a web browser. The Autel can connect to WiFi, which is necessary to use the device, at least at startup. You will need to set up an Autel account to use many of the scanner’s features.

This OBD2 scanner may be more than you need, especially if you find the extras distracting. The user manual is pretty thick, and we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this device if you’re simply trying to read error codes. It is an excellent choice for advanced users, however.

Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner

What Customers Are Saying

The Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner has a 4.6- out of 5-star rating on Amazon, with nearly 1,500 reviews. Buyers applaud the user interface, data output, and customer service.

“I love the MK808. It’s a responsive touchscreen tablet with an Android operating system and wireless internet. You can easily look up information on the spot while working on a vehicle. It also has quick links to your online repair manuals. Fast and intuitive operation saves you a lot of time during repairs.”

– A DIY Car Guy

However, some reviews say updates to this OBD2 scanner don’t fix system bugs. Other users say the MK808 doesn’t support as many vehicles as advertised.

“For most situations, this device does its job. There are a few times that the software is not supported for certain functions, and that’s pretty frustrating.”

– Stephen

#5 Innova CarScan Advisor 5210

Overall Rating4 out of 5
Value4.5
Ease of Use4.0
Customer Satisfaction4.0
Data Collection Capabilities3.5

Innova, a California-based manufacturer of diagnostic scan tools, offers an affordable car diagnostic device that does more than clear codes. A standout feature of the Innova CarScan Advisor 5210 is its ability to present “freeze-frame data.” This setting displays vehicle information from when a fault code gets triggered.

Users can also assess their anti-lock braking systems (ABS) with this device, as well as read and clear the check engine light with one button and run battery and charging system tests.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $100
  • Code severity levels to quickly identify repair needs
  • RepairSolutions2 app allows for smartphone connectivity
  • Read and clear codes with one button
  • Works with most domestic, Asian, and European cars with model years 1996 and newer

What’s In The Box?

The Innova CarScan Advisor does not include anything other than the scanner. You have to get the owner’s manual online by providing an email address to Innova, which will then send you a PDF copy.

Our Experience

Innova CarScan Advisor 5210

The Innova is easy to use and set up but comes with at least two drawbacks: It doesn’t have as much functionality as some OBD2 scanners, and the cable is frustratingly short, so you need to lean over to check the screen.

The user interface is easy to use, but the device is a bit limited in terms of functionality. It does not include hybrid battery testing, and the ABS testing failed when we tried to use it on a Ford Fusion. However, for a simple plug-in device, this may be a good option. Just make sure it’s compatible with your vehicle.

What Customers Are Saying

Customers on Amazon award the Innova CarScan Advisor 5210 an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars based on over 1,600 reviews. Positive reviews cite the intuitive user interface and easy code clearing.

“Connecting it and getting results was extremely simple, even for me. I was able to determine I had a rear oxygen sensor failure.”

– Docdaddy

Some buyers report connection issues and problems navigating advanced features. Also, according to one user, you must pay extra to get the device to work with multiple vehicles.

“This tool has a nice-looking screen and seems to read codes fine. What I have a problem with is that it only links to one VIN number, and then you have to purchase “keys” to add more vehicles.”

– AW

What Is An OBD2 Scanner?

OBD2, or OBDII, scanner ports became standard on all domestic vehicles in 1996 after the federal government pushed to reduce vehicle emissions. OBD2 devices, also known as OBDII scanners work by plugging into a connector typically found on the driver’s side of the vehicle’s cabin under the steering wheel column. It draws data from the onboard computer and produces an error code that corresponds with a particular issue.

You can view sensor data in real-time on modern scanners or translate it into a car code that refers to a specific problem. Although many universal code definitions exist, some vary by manufacturer. So one problem on a Ford could read differently on a Toyota or Honda.

Our Review Standards

The OBD2 scanners in this article went through two rounds of reviews. We started by searching Amazon for top products, looking at factors like Prime shipping eligibility, customer ratings, Amazon superlatives, and prices.

The five OBD2 scanners that best met these standards were ordered by our team for testing. A team member tested each product on a car, taking note of ease of use and data collection capabilities. Each diagnostic scanner was given a rating out of 5 stars based on this criteria.

OBD2 Testing Process

We evaluated each OBD2 scanner based on value, ease of use, customer satisfaction, and data collection capabilities.

Every OBD2 scanner recommended in this review was attached to a 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid. We tried all of the available diagnostic features. In this way, we could assess the usability of the user interface and determine the ease or difficulty of finding specific data and navigating menus.

To determine our customer satisfaction rating, we combed through Amazon reviews to see what others had to say, from professional mechanics to at-home enthusiasts. Scanners with the most consistently positive reviews scored highest in this category.

Buyers Guide: Best OBD2 Scanner

The best OBD2 scanner depends on the vehicle information you need and your level of mechanical know-how. If you’re looking to make simple repairs or ensure your car will pass inspection, an OBD2 scanner can be a great investment. If you’re a serious mechanic, you should opt for something more advanced.

Buy Based On The Work

The best way to determine the OBD2 scanner you need is by considering the type of work you’ll be performing. If you’re taking a weekend to double-check an assessment from a mechanic or see why the check engine light is on, you’ll probably only need something that can pull codes.

If you consistently work on vehicles as a job or hobby, you’ll want a scanner that’s compatible with foreign and domestic cars and receives updates regularly. Being able to send commands or change vehicle settings is helpful if you’re working with temperature sensors or tire pressure monitors. Access to readings such as the ABS and misfire information can help better diagnose a car’s overall health.

Just remember: More features and programming options mean a higher price tag.

Wired Vs. Wireless

When you’re looking for the best OBD2 scanner, Bluetooth connectivity is worth considering. Since having a physical cord usually keeps you close to the vehicle while you’re performing a diagnostic, wireless scanners are gaining popularity because of their simplicity and data collection capabilities. All you need is a smartphone with Bluetooth capability and the scanner’s corresponding app (which may not be free), and you can review data directly from your phone.

This can be a wonderful option if you’re looking for a “set it and forget it” tool that collects data while you’re driving, but it also frees users to look under the hood while running a diagnostic. However, some higher-end scanners come with internal batteries that last for hours, so the amount of information you need will dictate the best OBD2 scanner for your job.

Code Lookup

One of the more well-advertised features of OBD2 scanners is the code lookup function. While this is helpful, getting a complete answer will depend on your scanner’s compatibility with your vehicle, so you may end up searching the owner’s manual for the problem.

Some scanners can translate codes and display standard solutions, which helps expedite the repair process. This depends on how up-to-date your device is and the backlog of vehicles the scanner manufacturer has on file.

OBD2 Scanners: FAQ

*Data accurate at time of publication.