Whether you’re looking up ways to troubleshoot your vehicle or you’re trying to figure it out yourself, there’s a good chance an automotive scan tool will make things far easier for you.
They offer tons of information you can’t get any other way, and it takes a lot of guesswork out of things when you’re trying to figure out what’s going on. You want an automotive scan tool, but you also don’t want to spend a ton of money only to end up with a tool that doesn’t do what you want.
We understand, and it’s why we took the time to highlight ten of the best automotive scan tools for car diagnostics. When you’re serious about getting an automotive scan tool, these are the options you’ll want to consider.
10 Best Automotive Scan Tools Car Diagnostics
There are a ton of automotive scan tools on the market today. Whether you’re a DIY mechanic looking to fix your own vehicle or a professional looking for something for their shop, these are ten of the best options on the market today.
1. BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro – Best Automotive Scan Tool Overall
When you’re shopping for the best automotive scan tool for car diagnostics, there’s no better choice than the BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro. It doesn’t look like much, but that’s part of the appeal.
It’s a small device that you plug into the OBD2 scanner that sends all the information to an app you install on your smartphone. It works with both Apple and Android devices and is extremely easy to use.
Not only does it read all the codes your vehicle might have, but it also delivers live data from various sensors and delivers real-time information as you drive. This gives you more information to figure out what’s going on with your vehicle and fix the problem as soon as possible.
Overall, it’s extremely affordable and is an outstanding mix of price and quality, especially considering there are zero subscription fees or hidden costs with this scan tool. Once you purchase it and download the app, you have everything you need to use it for years to come.
Still, while it’s an outstanding choice for DIY mechanics, it doesn’t have all the advanced features a professional would want, and you need a smart device to use it. Not only that, but because of the smaller size it’s easy to lose the device if you don’t have a secure spot for it.
It’s an outstanding choice though, and it easily earns its spot at the top of our list.
- An outstanding mix of price and quality
- Very user-friendly design
- Compact and wireless design
- You can view live data as you drive
- Zero subscription fees or hidden costs
- You need a smartphone to use it
- Small device is easy to misplace
2. Autel OBD2 Scanner Autolink AL319 – Best Budget
Just because you don’t want to spend a ton of money doesn’t mean you can’t get a great automotive scan tool to help you figure out what’s going on with your vehicle. The Autel OBD2 Scanner Autolink AL319 comes from one of the best brands in the industry and you can get it at an astonishingly low price.
What’s even more impressive considering the price tag is how much this scan tool will do. Not only does it give codes, but it also displays live data and even can freeze-frame the information to give you more time to analyze things and figure out exactly what’s going on.
The tool itself is also durable and even comes with a 12-month warranty, but with how durable this scan tool is it’s not like you’ll need to use it. It’s a compact tool so it doesn’t take up much space in the garage or car.
Still, there’s a reason the Autel Autolink AL319 isn’t their most expensive option. First, while it’s an excellent tool for DIY mechanics, it doesn’t have all the features you can find in higher-end scan tools.
This isn’t a huge deal for most jobs, but sometimes a vehicle needs a specific feature on a scan tool to complete a repair. If that’s the case the Autel Autolink AL319 probably doesn’t have it.
But while this is a big deal for very specific jobs, the more concerning part for most DIY mechanics is that it’s not the easiest to navigate and use. It’s not the most complicated either, but it’s going to take time to get from screen to screen, and using the live stream and freeze frame functions can get confusing.
But with a little time and patience you can figure it out, and since you’re not spending a ton on the tool it’s really not a huge deal.
- Very affordable
- It gives codes, displays live data, and freeze frames
- Very durable
- Compact design
- It comes with a 12-month warranty
- Limited functions
- Not a very user-friendly design
3. Autel MaxiPRO MP808K Scan Tool – Premium Choice
If you’re a more serious DIY mechanic and don’t mind spending a little more on a scan tool, then the Autel MaxiPRO MP808K is the way to go. It’s extremely easy to use and comes loaded with over 30 service functions that speed up some repairs and unlock new troubleshooting and repair features.
It is a more expensive scan tool, but there are a few critical features that help make the higher price tag a bit more manageable. First, it comes with a 12-month warranty so you don’t have to worry about getting a dud right out of the box. And if you take care of it from there, there’s no reason it can’t last a long time.
Additionally, it comes with 24 months of updates for free, keeping the software completely up to date with all the newest vehicle information year after year. And while the tool will certainly get all the newest information each year if you pay for the subscription, you also don’t need to pay for it to keep using all the existing features.
The only downside is that you won’t get updated troubleshooting information and you won’t get updates on vehicles that didn’t come out until after the subscription service ended.
Still, it’s easy to use, just know that now all the service functions work on every car. You’ll still be able to use all the OBD2 troubleshooting features, but functions like injector coding, VGT turbo calibration, and transmission adaptation only work on select vehicle models.
- Very easy to use
- It comes with 24 months of updates
- 30+ service functions
- You don’t ever need to purchase a subscription
- It comes with a 12-month warranty
- More expensive option
- It works best with update subscriptions
- Not all functions work on all cars
4. Autel MaxiSys Elite Scanner – Best Professional Choice
There are automotive scan tools, then there’s the Autel MaxiSys Elite. It’s an outstanding scan tool, but the much higher price tag will drive away DIY mechanics. But if you have your own shop or you work on a ton of cars, you want the Autel MaxiSys Elite.
It works on over 10,000 car models, so you don’t have to worry about what type of vehicle comes into the shop. If it uses an OBD2 system, the Autel MaxiSys Elite should work on it. Not only that but there are 38 different service functions that can speed up both troubleshooting and repairs.
And since in the automotive field time is money, it’s only a matter of time until the Autel MaxiSys Elite pays for itself with the amount of time it saves.
The tool is extremely easy to use, and while it’s expensive, it also comes with a 5-year warranty so you don’t have to worry about anything happening to it any time soon. Moreover, it comes with two years of subscription-free upgrades so it can keep working on all the new vehicles that hit the market each year.
When it comes to the Autel MaxiSys Elite, there’s only one problem, the price. Not only is it extremely expensive upfront, but if you’re running your own shop, you’ll need to purchase an update subscription to keep it working for everything that comes in. And with a current price of $899.00 a year for an update, it’s not a cheap tool to keep in the shop.
- It works with 10,000+ car models
- 38+ different functions
- Very easy to use
- It comes with a 5-year warranty
- You get two years of subscription-free upgrades
- Very expensive option
- It requires a subscription to get all the most up-to-date information
5. Ancel FX2000 OBD Scan Tool
Autel might have a few more products on our list than Ancel, but Ancel is another outstanding automotive scan tool company you have to choose from, and one of their best products for DIY mechanics is the Ancel FX2000.
It’s not the most advanced scan tool out there, but it is one of the most affordable considering all the functions you do get. It works on over 10,000 vehicle models, and you can view any codes the vehicle might have.
Additionally, you can quickly and easily view live data coming from your vehicle, giving you far more information than a simple code reader. And while it might look like a more advanced scan tool, Ancel knew they were making the FX2000 for amateurs.
Because of this it’s extremely user-friendly even if you don’t have a strong automotive background. Sure, it won’t have all the advanced functions that higher-end scan tools have, but it’s also not nearly as expensive, and it has more than enough for most DIY mechanics.
- An outstanding mix of price and quality
- You can view all codes and live data
- It works on 10,000+ types of vehicles
- Very durable and easy-to-use design
- No advanced functions
6. Launch OBD2 Scanner CRP129E
If you like the Ancel FX2000 but want a few more features and don’t mind spending a little more for them, that’s where the Launch OBD2 Scanner CRP129E fits into things.
It provides an outstanding mix of price and performance, especially considering it comes with free lifetime upgrades. Unlike other scan tools that require you to get an annual subscription to unlock all the new vehicle data, the Launch OBD2 Scanner CRP129E gives you all this additional information for free.
Moreover, it’s easy to use and comes with a 5-year warranty, so you know it will last a long time for you. It comes with eight service functions which is a far cry from the 30+ that some of the higher-end scan tools come with, but it’s also far more than 0 that most lower-end models give you.
It allows you to reset the throttle, injector coding, BMS, DPF, TPMS, and SAS with just a few clicks, potentially saving you a ton of money since you won’t need to take your vehicle to a professional mechanic for these functions.
In the end, the Launch OBD2 Scanner fills a nice niche between professional and low-end tools and depending on your needs it might be exactly what you’re looking for.
- A great mix of price and performance
- Free lifetime upgrades
- Very easy to use
- It comes with a 5-year warranty
- It has a few advanced features
- Not as many advanced features as other tools
- More expensive than lower-end models
7. Innova 5210
The Innova 5210 is another extremely affordable scan tool for you to consider if you’re an at-home mechanic trying to improve your troubleshooting and repair skills a bit. It’s extremely easy to use and comes in a compact design, but what really starts to set this tool apart from other options is the mobile app it comes with.
The app collects data from the scan tool and compares it against known troubleshooting information for the specific vehicle to help you figure out what’s going on. It gives you verified fixes for specific problems and even helps you track down the right parts you need to get your vehicle back on the road.
The tool reads codes, gives you live data streams, and even works when driving so you get all the information necessary to figure out what’s going on with your vehicle. It’s also easy to use and works with all OBD2 vehicles.
It doesn’t come with any of the advanced features that higher-end scan tools come with, but at this price point, it’s not that big of a deal.
- Very affordable
- Easy to use
- It comes with a comprehensive mobile app
- You get live data
- Compatible with all OBD2 vehicles
- No advanced features
8. Foxwell 2-in-1 NT301
The Foxwell 2-in-1 NT301 is another super affordable automotive scan tool that is an excellent choice for DIY mechanics. It’s a 2-in-1 tool since it doubles as a battery tester, and it’s one of the most compact and easy-to-use scan tools on our list.
It reads codes and gives you live data from your vehicle, and with the DTC lookup feature, you can get some basic information about what’s going on with your vehicle right on the device. This scan tool works with tons of vehicles, and the OBD2 functions will work with every vehicle with an OBD2 port.
Still, while it’s a great small and affordable scan tool, it doesn’t come with any of the advanced features that other more expensive scan tools have, and the 2.8″ screen is on the smaller side of things, even if it is a TFT color screen.
At this price point, you really can’t complain too much, but if you’re looking for a more advanced automotive scan tool, this isn’t it.
- Very affordable
- It’s also a battery tester
- Very compact and easy-to-use
- It gives you live data
- It works with tons of vehicles
- No advanced features
- Very small screen
9. Ancel BD310
This is the second Ancel automotive scan tool on our list, and it works in much the same way as the BlueDriver scan tool at the top of our list. You plug in the tool to the vehicle’s OBD2 port, and from there, it sends all the information to an app you download on your smart device.
It gives you codes, sensor data, battery information, real-time monitoring, and live data analysis to help you figure out what’s going on with your vehicle. The battery testing feature is a nice addition for the Ancel BD310 since many other scan tools don’t come with this feature.
Overall it’s extremely compact, but the wired handheld portion is a bit larger than the BlueDriver scan tool. There’s nothing wrong with the handheld device, but it creates a scan tool that’s a bit clunkier and more cumbersome to use compared to the BlueDriver one that lets you do everything on the app.
The Ancel app does come with a DTC lookup feature that helps give you a little more information on the code though. There aren’t a ton of advanced features with this scan tool, but that’s pretty standard for a lower-end DIY automotive scan tool.
- Very affordable option
- Extremely easy to use
- Very compact design
- It can also test batteries
- Real-time monitoring and live data analysis
- You need a smartphone
- Not many advanced functions
10. Launch X431 V+ PRO
The Launch X431 V+ PRO isn’t a scan tool for most DIY mechanics. It’s another professional-quality option, and it has the price tag to match. Not only does it cost far more upfront, but it also requires an annual subscription if you want to get all the newest vehicle information and data.
But while you’re spending a lot more for the Launch X431 V+ PRO, it also comes with tons of additional features that help justify the higher price tag. First, there are over 35 service functions you can use to complete and speed up repairs.
Add in the 10.1″ color touchscreen and it’s never been easier to navigate to the right screen and see all the information at once. It works with over 10,000 vehicle models, and each device comes loaded with 24 different languages so everyone in the shop can use it.
Finally, with 128 GB of storage space, you can quickly screenshot data on a particular vehicle and save it for later. With that much space, you don’t need to worry about running out of space for more vehicle information any time soon!
- Large 10.1″ screen
- 35+ service functions
- Available in 24 languages
- It works on over 10,000 vehicle models
- Tons of storage space for storing vehicle information
- Very expensive choice
- You need an annual subscription for updates
Automotive Scan Tool Buyer’s Guide
With so many great scan tools out there it can be a challenge trying to narrow it down to just one. We understand the dilemma, and it’s why we came up with this comprehensive buyer’s guide that will walk you through everything you need to know to pick out the perfect automotive scan tool for your needs.
All the automotive scan tools will at least have basic functions available with any vehicle with an OBD2 port. However, this is only for the basic features like code reading and live data on some sensors.
Overall, compatibility with a wide range of vehicles was a large factor in picking out the scan tools for this list. We didn’t want to go with a scan tool that wouldn’t work for most vehicles, so we looked into scan tools that would work with most modern vehicles.
However, if you still want to verify compatibility with your specific vehicle before purchasing one. Finally, if you decide to purchase a scan tool that isn’t on our list you want to pay attention to the vehicles it will and won’t work on so you don’t end up with an expensive paperweight!
Features You Shouldn’t Go Without
While you can save a ton of money by going with a super cheap code reader or scan tool, you want to ensure any automotive scan tool you go with has at least two features. First, they should be able to read the codes.
This is the most basic feature, so any automotive scan tool should be able to do this. You don’t need a ton of information on each code though because you can always research further troubleshooting information on your own.
Second, you want an automotive scan tool that will give you live data. This is really what separates a scan tool from a basic code reader. Live data tells you what’s going on at different sensors throughout the vehicle, and you can use this information to pinpoint the problem.
Whether it’s abnormal performance specs or a faulty sensor, live data helps you narrow everything down without the need to tear a ton of parts of your vehicle and test a ton of individual components.
The Scoop on Service Functions
As you read through the reviews, you likely noticed that we brought up “service functions” a lot for specific scan tools. But what exactly are service functions, and do you really need them? The truth is that it depends.
If you’re looking for a scan tool for your own vehicle, chances are you don’t need the service functions. Many of the functions are things you can complete without a scan tool; it just takes longer to do so.
That’s not a huge deal when you’re working on your own vehicle, but if you’re trying to work on vehicles for a living, the faster you can complete a job the more you get paid. However, there are a few specific service functions that you absolutely need to complete different jobs.
Functions like injector coding, turbo adjustments, and transmission calibrations all require a scan tool to complete. But for at-home mechanics, it’s not the most common job, so you probably don’t want to spend the extra money for these features.
In short, if you’re a professional mechanic all the additional service functions are more than worth it, but if you’re only looking for a scan tool for your own vehicles you probably don’t need the extra service functions – most of the time.
Updating Your Scan Tool
If you go with a higher-end scan tool like the Autel MaxiPRO MP808K, Autel MaxiSys Elite, or the Launch X431 V+ PRO you’ll notice that there’s a mention of subscriptions and updates. That’s because these scan tools come with the option but not the obligation to update them each year.
These updates put in the information for vehicles from the newest model years and provide more information about specific issues for older vehicles. However, these subscriptions are far from free. They typically cost hundreds of dollars each year, which can significantly add to the overall cost of the scan tool.
The good news is that you don’t need these subscriptions to keep using all the existing features on each scan tool. However, if you’re trying to work on a newer vehicle and want to use the advanced features, you’ll need to purchase the subscription.
This is why most automotive shops will pay for the subscriptions, but if you’re only working on your own vehicle, you typically won’t need to worry about it until you purchase a newer vehicle.
Frequently Asked Questions
An automotive scan tool can make a big difference when you’re trying to troubleshoot what’s going on with a vehicle. But the more you learn about scan tools, the more questions it can cause. We understand and it’s why we decided to answer some of the most frequently asked questions for you here.
Are Cheap Scan Tools Any Good?
Yes! While cheap scan tools won’t come with as many features as higher-end models, most at-home mechanics don’t need all these extra features. A cheaper scan tool will still read codes and give you access to live data, which is all you need to figure out what’s going on with your vehicle.
Do I Need an Expensive OBD2 Scanner?
It depends on what you’re trying to do with your vehicle, but most of the time you don’t need an expensive OBD2 scanner. The only real exception to this is if you’re a professional mechanic and you need a tool that’s going to work on everything and save you a ton of time.
Does AutoZone Charge for Code Reading?
No. Code reading is completely free at AutoZone. It’s also free at other part stores like O’Reilly’s. If you can get your vehicle to the store they’ll typically read the code for you for free.
How Do You Reset the Check Engine Light Without a Scanner?
If you need to reset a check engine light and don’t have a scan tool all you need to do is remove the negative battery terminal. Leave the terminal off for a few minutes before reconnecting it. This will reset the system and reset the check engine light in the process.
What Should I Look for When Buying a Scanner?
When you’re purchasing an automotive scan tool. First, you need to ensure it has the features you need and want. Whether this is simply code reading and live data or if you want more, ensure the scan tool has everything you want.
Second, ensure the scan tool is compatible with your vehicle. While the scan tools on our list are compatible with most vehicles, plenty only work with certain makes or models.
If you’re on the fence about purchasing an automotive scan tool, we highly recommend it. You don’t need the highest-end scan tool out there, but even a simple scan tool can make troubleshooting a lot easier and save you from having to take your vehicle to a mechanic to figure out what’s going on.
The BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro is an outstanding choice that’s easy to use, but if you’re looking for something that costs a bit less the Autel OBD2 Scanner Autolink AL319 is a great choice too.
Don’t wait until something goes wrong with your vehicle to get a scan tool, get it on order now. That way when something happens you have everything you need on hand to figure out what’s going on with your vehicle and fix it as soon as possible.