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 will take a deep dive into 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 buying guide for potential customers.
In this article:
- Our Review Standards
- #1 Best Overall: Launch CRP129E Scan Tool
- #2 Best Bluetooth Scanner: BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool
- #3 Best Budget Scanner: Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner
- #4 Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner
- #5 Innova CarScan Advisor 5210
- What Is An OBD2 Scanner?
- Buying Guide: Best OBD2 Scanner
- FAQ: OBD2 Scanners
Our Review Standards
We chose the OBD2 scanners featured in this review based on range of collectible data, ease of use, customer satisfaction, and overall value.
#1 Best Overall: Launch CRP129E Scan Tool
The Launch CRP129E Scan Tool is our choice for overall best OBD2 scanner due 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. Users can also graph live data, reset diagnostic trouble codes (DTC), and perform emissions tests.
One plus of this diagnostic scanner is Launch offers free lifetime updates, as long as you go through an authorized dealer. It comes stock with data code protocols from nearly 60 carmakers and over 1,000 models, so chances are this scanner knows something about your vehicle.
- Wi-Fi 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 Customers Are Saying: The Launch CRP129E Scan Tool is rated 4.4 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon, with around 1,200 reviews. Customers like the intuitive touch screen and data accuracy. Some customers report the device failing within a year and laggy customer service.
#2 Best Bluetooth Scanner: BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool
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 both Android and Apple smartphones.
This relatively simple system works by plugging the car scanner into your vehicle’s OBD2 port (usually located beneath the steering column). This 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.
- 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 Customers Are Saying: With over 27,400 ratings, the BlueDriver has a solid 4.7- out of 5.0-star rating, with over 81 percent of reviewers awarding the device 5.0 stars. The easy-to-use system, Bluetooth functionality, and technical support are popular with buyers. Others question the data’s reliability and say it’s not compatible with as many vehicles as advertised.
#3 Best Budget Scanner: Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner
If your main 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 being able to pull manufacturer-specific OBD2 codes, the I/M Readiness button in the center of the scanner offers a fairly fast emissions test. Windows users can also use the USB cable to upload data from the scanner to their computer.
- DTC lookup
- Three-stage LED test lights
- Monitors misfires, fuel system, air conditioning, and oxygen sensors
- USB port connection for downloadable reports
What Customers Are Saying: The Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Scanner is one of the most well-reviewed code readers on Amazon with over 14,300 ratings. Overall, reviewers score the device 4.5 out of 5.0 stars, although some buyers say they’ve had connection issues. Positive reviews mention a readable owner’s manual and good value for the money.
#4 Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner
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.
For the first year of ownership, Autel provides updates to the device for free, and it already comes stock with plenty of information about American, European, and Asian brands. Also included is an app that stores vehicle and customer data, so you get an OBD2 scanner and logbook all-in-one.
- One-step tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) check
- Automatic vehicle identification number (VIN) lookup
- Capacitive touch screen
- Customizable graph data
- Supports micro SD cards up to 32GB
- Rugged carrying case
What Customers Are Saying: The Autel MaxiCOM MK808 Scanner currently has a 4.6- out of 5.0-star rating on Amazon with over 900 reviews. Buyers applaud the user interface, data output, and customer service. Gripes from customers include not supporting as many vehicles as advertised and updates not fixing system bugs.
#5 Innova CarScan Advisor 5210
The California-based diagnostic scan tool manufacturer Innova 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 was triggered.
Users can also assess their anti-lock braking system (ABS) with this device, read and clear the check engine light with one button, and run battery and charging system tests.
- 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 model years 1996 and newer
What Customers Are Saying: Customers on Amazon award the Innova CarScan Advisor 5210 4.5 out of 5.0 stars based on over 650 reviews. Positive reviews cite the intuitive user interface and easy code clearing. On the other end, some buyers report connection issues and problems navigating advanced features.
What Is An OBD2 Scanner?
OBD2, or OBDII, scanner ports were made standard on all domestic vehicles in 1996 after a push by the federal government to reduce vehicle emissions. OBD2 devices 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 certain issue.
On modern scanners, sensor data can either be viewed in real-time or translated into a car code that refers to a specific problem. Although there are many universal code definitions, some vary by manufacturer. So one problem on a Ford could read differently on a Toyota.
Buying Guide: Best OBD2 Scanner
Finding the best OBD2 scanner is going to depend on what vehicle information you need and your level of mechanical know-how. If you’re looking to make simple repairs or make sure your car will pass an upcoming 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 judge what OBD2 scanner you need is by the type of work you’ll be performing. If you’re taking a weekend to see why the check engine light is on or double-check an assessment from a mechanic, 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 both foreign and domestic vehicles and receives updates regularly. Being able to send commands or change settings within the vehicle is useful if you’re working with temperature sensors or tire pressure monitors, and access to things like the ABS and misfire information can help better diagnose the overall health of a car.
Just remember, more features and programming options mean a higher price tag.
Wired Vs. Wireless
When looking for the best OBD2 scanner, Bluetooth connectivity is something to consider. Since having a physical cord usually keeps you close to the vehicle while performing a diagnostic, wireless scanners are gaining popularity due to their simplicity and data collection capabilities. All you need is a smartphone with Bluetooth capability and the scanner’s corresponding app, which may or may not be free, and you can review data straight from your phone.
This can be a great option if you’re looking for a “set it and forget it” tool that collects data while you’re driving but also frees users to do things like look under the hood while running a diagnostic.
That said, some higher-end scanners have internal batteries that last for hours, so the best obd2 scanner for your job depends on how much information you need.
Probably one of the more well-advertised features of OBD2 scanners is the code lookup function. While helpful, getting a complete answer will depend on how compatible the scanner is with your vehicle, so you could find yourself searching the owner’s manual for the actual problem.
Some scanners can translate codes and display common solutions, which helps expedite the repair process. Again, this depends on how up-to-date your device is and the backlog of vehicles the scanner manufacturer has on file.