In this side-by-side product review Outside Pursuits leads you through everything you need to know in order to compare and choose the best OBD2 scanner for your specific mechanical needs and vehicle specifics.
We’ll take a look at the top-rated and best diagnostic vehicle code readers for the money. Also see: How To Choose The Best OBD2 Scanner later in the article. What is the best car code reader OBD2 scanner?
Quick Answer: The 6 Best OBD2 Scanners
- BlueDrive Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool
- OBDLink MX+ Professional OBD2 Scanner
- NEXPEAK NX501 OBD2 Scanner
- FOXWELL NT301 OBD2 Scanner
- SEEKONE Professional Car OBD2 Scanner
- ANCEL AD140 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader
Best OBD2 Scanners
|BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool||OBDLink MX+ Professional OBD2 Scanner||NEXPEAK NX501 OBD2 Scanner|
|Codes||Reads and clears both CEL and Enhanced codes||Enhanced codes||Accurately reads and erases error codes
|Data Dashboard||Customizable Live Data Dashboard||Log and export real-time engine data||Live data in a time based chart
|Special Features||Wireless, Free Repair Reports||Secure wireless, Easy to Install||Built in memory card for storing data, Monitors car battery
|Customer Ratings||5.0 / 5.0 Stars||3.5 / 5.0 Stars||4.5 / 5.0 Stars|
Also see: OBD2 Scanners Comparison Chart
Best OBD2 Scanners Reviews
This unit is as easy to use as a simple code reader but offers so much more; the level of information it gives you is unparalleled.
- Certified for both Apple and Android devices
- Free Repair Reports
- Reads and clears both CEL and Enhanced codes
- Smog check
- Customizable Live Data Dashboard
This scanning tool could definitely be considered one of the best professional automotive diagnostic scanners on the market today. It handles both diagnostics and troubleshooting and it has advanced data reading, all of which make it nearly indispensable.
This unit is OBD2 Bluetooth capable, which means there are no cords to get tangled. One downside to this is that if the Bluetooth/WiFi connection is weak or slow, the unit may not fully function. However, this is a minor concern that should not deter you from this unit.
You will want to start with the free BlueDriver app. It is certified to function with both Android and Apple iOS devices and phones, which means that you can access the data from your phone, iPad or anything else that uses these operating systems.
Once the app is downloaded, it works in tandem with the sensors to essentially become one device that reads all of the data. Not only does it read and clear basic codes, it also has enhanced diagnostics and advanced codes for other systems like airbags and transmission.
(It should be noted here that enhanced diagnostics are available on a great many OEMs (too many to list), but not all of them. In addition, some of them are only available on brands that are sold in North America. Be sure to do your research for your specific make and model of car to ensure compatibility).
If it reads a code, it produces a Repair Report. This can inevitably save you both time and money, because you can print out or save the report so that it can be shown to a mechanic. No need for them to run codes again.
In addition, you can run the scanner on your car to see if it is ready for an emissions/smog test. This will save you money in the long run, because you will know to fix anything prior to the test, so you won’t have to pay for multiple tests.
The customizable Live Data Dashboard is another feature that makes this one of the best scanners available. You can use multiple data sources, show them in a display of your choice (graph, digital, etc.), pick the colors of the dashboard, and arrange the placement of the information.
As you can see, there are many reasons why this unit is our number one ranked unit.
This unit and the BlueDriver Bluetooth are essentially neck and neck for best scan tool due to the sheer number of features offered.
- High Speed
- Easy to Install
- Maximum vehicle coverage
- Secure wireless
- Enhanced codes
It would be very hard to go wrong with this unit. Bluetooth enabled and easy to install, it can be set up in a matter of minutes. The extra-secure Bluetooth wireless allows for extra speed, which can be helpful if you are trying to fix a problem on the fly.
It also comes with software that allows you to turn your Android or Windows PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones into the scanner. Unfortunately, it is not compatible with Apple iOS products. In spite of this, the OBDLink compatibility with more software and third-party apps than any other on this list.
If you do not care about it synching to your phone, you can still get plenty of use out of this model. It actually works on an extremely wide range of vehicles, including proprietary protocols from GM and Ford. As with the others, however, you should always check your vehicle’s specifics.
Another nice feature of this model is its battery saver technology; if you forget to unplug it when you turn your engine off, it simply goes to sleep. It has the freeze frame information of some of the others, as well as recording of operating parameters in real time.
This one ends up as number two on our list, solely because it is not compatible with Apple iOS. But for some, the OBD2 Bluetooth Android combination may be too hard to pass up.
Here is another good car scanner to add to your list of possibilities.
- Accurately reads and erases error codes
- Monitors car battery
- Built in memory card for storing data
- Life-time free updates and upgrades
- Live data in a time based chart
Although it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the BlueDriver unit, it still offers more than enough to satisfy your needs in a scanner. The 2.8” color LCD screen makes it easy to see and understand the codes.
One of the best features of this model is that the code definitions appear shortly after the scanner finds the code. This will save you from having to go into the manual to translate what the code is. It, too, can pull engine-related codes from both generic and OEM-specific databases (again, check your particular vehicle model for ensured compatibility).
This model displays sensor readings in either text or graph form for easier analysis. This data can be uploaded onto a computer and printed out to show to a mechanic to save time in the garage. It even has a battery voltage check, so you can monitor the life of your battery and avoid being stuck with a dead battery somewhere.
It runs an 02 sensor test which will identify an errors related to emissions, and also has emission status monitoring, so you can solve any issues before you take your vehicle for a smog test.
This unit comes with a USB cable for uploading data and updating the scanner itself. It also has a 5-foot OBDII diagnostic cable, so you can check codes from outside your vehicle; no more having to scrunch down under your steering wheel while the scanner runs its analysis.
There are a couple of other aspects you need to be aware of as well. This particular scanner only works on engine systems. It does not have codes for any other systems like transmissions or airbags. Also, it only works with cars that have the 16-pin OBD2 interface (plug). You can check the vehicle emission control information (VECI) label, usually found under the hood or by the radiator.
These is by no means a bare bones model, as it has a lot of features. But lack of wireless technology and a compatible app are just a couple of reasons it is at number three on our list.
This scanner has a lot of features that are similar to the other scanners on this list.
- Powered by vehicle, no need to charge
- Automatic VIN acquisition
- Real time data
- Desktop software for reports
Right up front, this scanner is like the NEXPEAK in that it will only read codes for the CEL; it will not read and/or clear any codes related to traction control or other systems. However, the things it can do with the CEL codes is still adequate for normal use.
Since it runs on your vehicle’s power, there is no reason to charge it first. Plug it in, turn on the ignition, and wait for it to light up. The unit has an automatic VIN acquisition, which makes it more OEM specific almost immediately, saving you having to search through multiple codes.
You can navigate through the menu using the arrow keys, and everything is easy to read on the 2.8-inch color screen. The model also features a green/yellow/red LED light system that makes it easy to see how healthy your car is. One press of the I/M button, and within 5 seconds you should be able to tell if your car is ready for an emissions test.
The live sensors can be displayed in either text or graph form, whichever is easier for you to understand. It will also read freeze frame data which shows certain engine conditions such as engine coolant temp. There is software that can be downloaded so that diagnostic data can be uploaded and printed, enabling you to take it to a mechanic for further analysis.
This unit has three multi-lingual packages, and covers multiple models of a large number of OEM. It is slightly unique in that it also covers SUVs, light trucks and 12V diesel vehicles, as long as they are equipped with OBDII capabilities.
Automatic VIN acquisition and the range of vehicles it covers brings this unit in at number four.
Many websites have voted this the best professional automotive scan tool, and it certainly is designed to be a home-use/professional grade unit.
- Quick read and diagnosis
- Extremely durable
- One-click I/M readiness status
- Supports US, EU, and Asian cars
- Lifetime free software updating
Known as a “Professional Vehicle Doctor” the SEEKONE unit does everything you want an OBD2 scanner to do. Not only can it read and erase codes, but it also can retrieve information from the Engine Control Unit (ECU).
Like the ANCEL, it only works on vehicles with a 12V battery and 16PIN OBD II protocol, but it has a very simple “plug and use” interface, so you can start using it straight from the package. The SEEKONE has a one-click readiness key, which makes diagnosing easy.
To make it easier, it automatically displays the fault code definition. Like others in the list, it can graph data, and view freeze frame data from live stream sensors. However, it supports all US OEMs since 1996 with those characteristics, as well as most EU and Asian vehicles from 2001 onwards, making it one of the most widely usable car code readers on the list.
It should be noted that the SEEKONE is not an abs scan tool; it only works on OBDII systems. And the lifetime free software updating can NOT be updated on a MAC, so that might be a consideration as well.
All in all, however, this workhorse would be a fine addition to any home garage. The compatibility for cars from the US, EU and Asia gives the SEEKONE the edge over the ANCEL.
This unit is a basic engine code reader. It does what you need it to do, but pretty much nothing else. There are some good features.
- Powered by vehicle
- Supports O2 sensor test
- 4 inch color LCD display
- Easy set up and use
- Save and print diagnostic reports
This is a great tool for beginners. Simply plug it in to the OBD2 port, turn the car on, make sure the unit is on, and you are ready to start diagnosing. However, this unit works on 12V battery vehicles only, and the vehicle must have that 16 PIN OBD II protocol.
But if you meet the parameters, this is a handy, quick way to diagnose error codes on your car. The LCD screen shows the code and its definition, so you do not have to go look through a glossary or hunt for what the code means. The built in library is constantly updated, so it should always have the latest codes.
This unit also provides life-time software updates for free; you just have to download the software from the ANCEL website. It does have a wide-compatibility of OEM vehicles (as long as they have the 16 PIN), and also supports all OBD2 protocols.
It can retrieve live data as your car runs. This can be especially useful in tracking a problem as it occurs instead of waiting for a code to be thrown. Once the CEL code is identified and fixed, you can clear the code and reset your CEL with this device as well.
If you are looking for something very basic and easy to use, this is a good choice.
OBD2 Scanner Comparison Table
|Best OBD2 Scanners||Price||Codes||Data Dashboard||Special Features||Customer Ratings|
|BlueDrive Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool||$99.95||Reads and clears both CEL and Enhanced codes||Customizable Live Data Dashboard||Wireless, Free Repair Reports||4.4 / 5.0 Stars|
|OBDLink MX+ Professional OBD2 Scanner||$74.95||Enhanced codes||Log and export real-time engine data||Secure wireless, Easy to Install||3.5 / 5.0 Stars|
|NEXPEAK NX501 OBD2 Scanner||$65.45||Accurately reads and erases error codes||Live data in a time based chart||Built in memory card for storing data, Monitors car battery||4.5 / 5.0 Stars
|FOXWELL NT301 OBD2 Scanner||$69.99||Obdii code reader||Real time data||Powered by vehicle, no need to charge||4.3 / 5.0 Stars
|SEEKONE Professional Car OBD2 Scanner||$69.99||Auto Fault Code Reader||Live O2 sensor test data||Extremely durable, One-click I/M readiness status||4.5 / 5.0 Stars
|ANCEL AD140 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader||$44.99||AD410 code reader||Live data with a graph||Supports O2 sensor test|
, 4 inch color LCD display
|4.3 / 5.0 Stars
How to Choose the Best OBD2 Scanner
There once was a time, not too long ago, when you could take your car to a mechanic, they could take a simple look , and tell you what was wrong with your car. Better yet, if you were mechanically minded, you could generally diagnose and fix the problem yourself.
Those days are long gone. Cars are so computerized now that it takes special diagnostic tools to be able to read the codes produced by the computer when there is something wrong with your car. Usually, this means a trip to the mechanic so they can hook your car up to their computers.
But you could also get a personal Onboard Diagnostics II (hereafter called OBD2 or OBD-II) device that would scan and decipher your car’s codes. In turn, this could ultimately save you some money in the long run.
As you can tell, almost all of have very similar capabilities, so it might be hard to figure out which one is best for you. You simply need to look at some of the features that appeal to you most.
Keeping in mind that there are different types of auto scanners. Here are a few explanations to help you understand all of the technical information, as well as acronyms you may see when further researching car code readers.
This simply means that the scan tool can both send and receive information from vehicle control modules. This may enable you to get more pinpoint accuracy on a specific problem.
NOTE: Different manufacturers refer to bidirectional controls in different terms: actuator tests, inspection tests, system tests…they all refer to the same thing.
Something with Bluetooth capability could expand the usage of your car scanner. It may also make it easier to take with you on long trips, as you would not necessarily need to stop to plug the unit in if your CEL came on.
If you do choose a unit that needs to be plugged in to the OBD2 port, you might want to make sure that it is powered by the vehicle itself. This would alleviate any chances of you needing the scanner, only to find that the battery had died. (You would then be headed straight to a mechanic).
These are Diagnostic Trouble Codes. You would use your scanner to see if your car is throwing any DTCs
Many people think this refers to a battery, or an aspect of the scan tool, but it actually just stands for “Check Engine Light.” This is probably one of the most common DTCs you will encounter.
This is the Powertrain Control Module, and it is where your tool gets the code information from.
This does not refer to the carburetor. It stands for California Air Resources Board, which in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), established the parameters for OBD and mandated them to be universal across manufacturers.
Society of Automotive Engineers. They are the body that developed the specifications for the scan tools within the parameters set by CARB.
Original Equipment Manufacturer. Basically this is the manufacturer of the car. OBD tools used to be OEM specific, meaning that you could not use the same tool on both a Honda and a Ford. OBD-II essentially mandated that the tools be compatible with all autos regardless of OEM.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions About OBD2 Scanners
Question: What is the difference between a code reader and a scan tool?
Answer: Both of these are car diagnostic scanners. Code readers can read and clear codes from any OBD-II equipped vehicle. Scan tools can view data, provide a knowledge database (including access to manufacturer-specific codes) and are customizable.
Question: What is the difference between OBD-I and OBD-II?
Answer: OBD-I scanners were more manufacturer specific. OBD-II scanners use the same codes and protocols across many manufacturers. This essentially means that one scanner can now provide access to all of the information necessary for multiple vehicles.
Question: How do I know if an OBD-II car code reader will work on my car?
Answer: OBD-II was required across the board in vehicles manufactured in 1996. Keep in mind that it took some manufacturers longer than others to implement the technology, so some 1996 models are compatible, while others may not be. But OBD-II scanners should work on anything produced since 1996.
Question: Is it difficult to use an auto diagnostic tool?
Answer: It depends on the complexities of the unit that you choose. Most diagnostic scan tools are “plug-and-use.” What this means is you plug the OBD-II connector in the vehicle’s port (usually located under the steering column), turn the key to give the tool power, enter any necessary vehicle information (initial set up may require the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)), press scan, and let it do the rest.
If the scanner does come up with codes, then you will need to follow the manual to verify the codes before proceeding with attempting to fix them. This is why you should always travel with the manual (if it comes with one) in your glove compartment or stored somewhere in the car.
Last Word Buyer’s Tips
As you have seen, there are several different types of car diagnostic scanners on the market. When looking to buy one, the first thing you need to do is make sure that your particular vehicle is covered by the model you are considering. There is no point in buying something that will not work, no matter how much troubleshooting you try to do.
Once you have established what works for your vehicles, then you can start looking at other features to see what is most important or useful to you. After you have looked at those aspects, and you put all of your research together, you should be able to find the best OBD2 scan tool that will save you time and money at the auto shop.
Thanks for reading Top-Rated OBD2 Scanners Reviewed. We hope our review article will help you pick the right car diagnostic device for your needs from among our top picks.
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Last update on 2019-03-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API