What are the Best OBD2 Scanner Tools?

Issues in our cars can arise often and sometimes even the process of diagnosing the problem can cost money if our first step is to go to the mechanic. In this article we will be looking at a special tool which can help you find out what is wrong with your car for free.

The OBD2 scanner tool is our focus today and we are going to talk more about what it does and of course we will look at some of the best models on the market. Hopefully by the end of this post you will be well on your way to purchasing the ideal model for you and your future car care needs.

What Is an OBD2 Scanner?

For years On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) scanners were only found in professional mechanics' workshops and dealerships where they would use them to diagnose our cars' issues. They would then come back to us with almost mystical declarations of what is wrong having merely sat in the driver's seat for a few minutes.

Gradually however these fantastic little handheld tools have made their way into the mainstream allowing the average at home engine tinkerer greater powers to learn what's happening in the depths of their vehicles.

Our modern day cars are packed with sensors that are constantly reporting information to the various computers in our vehicles. This information is used to make alterations to the car's running to increase performance and in some cases safety.

When we start to notice our car is not acting as it should we can’t always know why. However with an OBD2 scanner we need to simply hook up our tool into our car's OBD port which is usually located somewhere below the steering wheel. This scanner can then communicate with our car's computers and give us a whole host of information including trouble codes.

When Do You Need an ODB2 Scanner Tool?

All OBD2 scanner tools are designed to be able to read the trouble codes that are related to faults that trigger a check engine light. Therefore if your check engine light illuminates your scanner tool should be able to tell you using a code what the problem is.

Some more advanced units may also be able to read transmission, ABS and SRS trouble codes as well. These would be extras however and will likely mean a more expensive unit. A standard unit still has an impressive range when it comes to the trouble codes they can read.

What Is the Best OBD2 Scanner to Buy?

There are a host of models on the market today to meet your needs and of course your budget. In this section we will look at a few of the best to try and help you decide which one is the right fit for you.

1. BlueDriver Bluetooth

Without question there are cheaper models on the market but at $110 the BlueDriver is definitely a bargain for what you get. Features such as smartphone compatibility, live data streams, customizable displays and unlimited vehicle-specific repair reports this is a great unit.

This is the perfect balance of quality and price in a tool that is not too bulky. It differs from many models which have inbuilt screens but its ability to connect with our smart phones does make up for this shortcoming.

Many professionals use this model which is always a ringing endorsement but it can be used with ease by the home mechanic. The connection with your phone also allows you to get information such as links to potential replacement parts with which to fix your vehicle's issues.

2. Autel ML629

Be prepared to see the Autel name a few times in this list because frankly they make great products and they have several impressive scanner tools. This model is in the higher price point at around $126 but for this you get not only engine diagnostics but transmission, ABS and SRS as well.

This isn’t the best Autel has to offer but if you are looking for value for your money this could be the unit for you. It is a simplified version of some of its big brothers who we will meet later on. It may not be the choice of the pros but for an at home mechanic it would be a great addition to their diagnostic arsenal.

It has a built-in library of code explanations which is important as this can save you referring to your car's owner's manual. It does however lack troubleshooting advice but most of us have the internet on our phones these days and Google is an easy word to spell.

This unit does have a couple of shortcomings, firstly its screen is pretty small. The second issue is that although you can freeze frame data on the screen you can not capture an image of it with the scanner itself. You would have to use your phone camera so again that small screen isn’t ideal.

Otherwise this is a great budget option for the home mechanic. It is user friendly, has some great features and is not too overwhelming in its complexity.

3. Autel Maxicom MK808

Swinging now to the other end of Autel's range of scanners we get to their premium model. This $474 model will hurt the wallet a little bit but it is certainly not overpriced for what it is. Featuring over 25 service functions, live data streams. Detailed reports/fix suggestions, 7-inch screen and auto VIN technology this is a bargain.

In truth though the average at home mechanic may find this overkill as it is probably more at home with someone who has their own repair shop. If there’s a code to check this scanner can check it, there are no limitations in that regard.

When you plug this scanner into a vehicle it knows everything there is to know about that car including its VIN. This is beneficial because you don’t have to input information to make sure the unit knows what it is dealing with.

4. INNOVA Car Scan Advisor

Dipping in at just under $100 the INNOVA car scan advisor is on the more conservative end of the market and its features do reflect that. It gives you engine and ABS codes but transmission and SRS are not covered here.

Unlike many budget options this does give you diagnostic tips and suggested repairs which is why this model makes it into our list today. Great performance, reasonable price, multilingual capability and a user friendly design make this great for the home mechanic although then pros probably would not bother with a unit like this.

5. Launch

The gulf between pro and amateur mechanics can be vast but a unit like the Launch may be the equalizer. It is far from a cheap unit but at $258 it certainly isn’t a premium unit either. This is the kind of scanner that would fit into a professional mechanic's shop and a home garage setup.

One of the biggest draws of this well equipped unit is its 5 year warranty. This is always a great indication of a quality durable unit. Boasting nine languages, five service functions, data playback and even printable results this is a great mid range option.

It would not be the only scanner in an auto shop as it is limited but this does not mean that the pros would not consider it an option. A home mechanic will feel like a professional using this and over time it can save them money on diagnostic tests.

6. Autel MaxiCom MK908

Home mechanics look away now lest you have your heads turned. The MK908 from Autel is a super premium unit and will set you back $1669. This is more scanner than most home mechanics can ever dream of needing but who are we to tell you how to spend your money.

Perfectly at home in a busy auto shop this scanner works with almost all vehicles, has 31 service functions, 10.1” screen and active troubleshooting. If a component is acting up you may have the ability to turn it on and off with this scanner.

There is a huge drawback to this model when compared to others in our list and it's certainly not related to it being limited in use. Other scanners have free updates but when you are paying this kind of money for a unit the updates are more valuable. You will have to pay a yearly update fee to keep the information up to date.

As a hobby piece it is extravagant and frankly if you are not earning money by using it the costly updates may not be worth your while. Like a Lamborghini though it's certainly nice to look at and wonder what it might be like to take for a spin.

7. Actron CP9690 OBD1 & OBD2

Returning to earth a little bit we come to the mid-range Actron with a reasonable sticker price of $211. At first glance you might look at this unit and think there is nothing special about it but you would be wrong.

In 1996 the OBD2 system started to enter vehicles which means prior to this it was the OBD1 system. In modern scanners the OBD1 is often overlooked because as time goes by fewer pre 96 cars are on the roads.

Well the Actron not only reads OBD2 codes but also can read the limited OBD1 codes as well. There were obviously fewer but if you do have an older vehicle or may be working on something pre 96 this is a great option for you.

It should be noted that this is limited to certain brands when it comes to OBD1 trouble codes but if you have a pre 96 Ford, GM, Chrysler or Toyota you may be in luck.

8. MOTOPOWER MP69033 OBD2 Scanner

We close out our list today with a real entry level offering which will not break your wallet. Costing just over $25 this is the perfect unit to cut your teeth on and potentially tell you if a more expensive purchase is worth it further down the line.

There is no intention to disparage this model as cheap however as it certainly offers more than value for your money. The codes are easy to read and you can erase them once repairs have been made. You can also freeze frame data and do a limited emissions test.

If you are just getting into the concept of using an OBD2 scanner this is a great place to start. If you only have one car the hope will be that you take such good care of it that you will hardly ever need to turn your scanner on.

This scanner, though very basic, will get the job done with little to no fuss. It may not be able to tell you what you should do to fix an issue but if you are confident in your mechanical knowledge simply knowing what you have to fix is enough.

Top Tips for Choosing the Right Scanner

The reason we have choices in life is so that we can pick the things that are right for us and this is the case with scanner tools as well. In this section we give a few basic tips to help you determine which OBD2 scanner tool is going to be the right choice for you.


It's an obvious consideration when you stop to think about it but sometimes people forget to check these things. OBD2 scanners do tend to be universal but sometimes various features may not be. When it comes to advanced features on these scanners sometimes they may be brand or model specific.

Make sure that the scanner you are interested in is suitable for your vehicle. Also if you are potentially looking at a transmission, ABS or SRS problem make sure your option covers those systems. The less expensive models often only cover OBD issues that usually relate to check engine light related issues.

Extra Features

There are some amazing scanners out there with great features that are more at home in a professional auto shop setting. If your needs are basic and you merely want to know what might be wrong you may want a more basic model.

If however you want to monitor how your car is running, monitor other systems, find troubleshooting tips, be given repair suggestions or have some service options you may want something with a few bells and whistles.


There is a whole range of prices when it comes to OBD2 scanner tools so you will likely find something to match your budget. As with all things the more you spend the more you get so you will want to strike a balance between what you can afford and what you actually need.

You can spend a huge amount on a top tier professional unit but then only use it a few times. That’s your money and your choice but arguably it would be a bit of a waste. At a lower price point you might get the same results for far less.


OBD2 scanner tools are fantastic and can potentially save us hundreds in mechanics fees. This type of tool can help us diagnose an issue in our car that we might be able to fix ourselves. Without this tool we might only know there’s an issue and we will just take it to the auto shop.

It is surprisingly common to find out that the issue is a simple fix that even someone with basic mechanical skills can fix. Even if the issue is more complex and you do need a mechanic you have the peace of mind that a less than honest technician can’t claim something is wrong that you have already seen using your scanner is not.

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