If you love to tinker with your vehicle or simply want to save some money by doing your own maintenance, you need an OBD2 scanner. What exactly is an OBD2 scanner? It’s a device that reads the onboard diagnostic system information (like check engine light codes) included in every vehicle made after 1996. They’re super handy, so here are some of the best OBD2 scanners worth buying.
Back in the good ol days, vehicles were loud, smelled like power and metal, not to mention had cable-controlled throttle bodies. Mechanical parts. Those days are long gone, and most car systems, be it the tranny, engine, emissions, brakes, and more, are all managed by a vast array of sensors and computers.
It turns out computers are pretty smart. That’s where an OBD2 (onboard diagnostics) scanner comes in handy. It can read all the information those sensors and computers gather—simply plug it into your car’s OBD2 port and you’re good to go. You’ll want to look for a scanner that has the most features for what you need, whether you’re an at-home mechanic or a professional.
- Features: If you want to check and clear engine error codes, a simple BT/Wi-Fi scanner is perfect. However, more intensive tasks or codes, like real-time testing, require something a bit bigger. Get what feature set you will need or are comfortable with.
- Connectivity: Next, consider how you plan to read the codes. Some models have a display that shares information, while others easily connect to smartphones or tablets via a companion app.
- Price: These scanners can range from $20 to several hundred, and along with the price difference is a wild range of features. Professionals will obviously want (or need) something more robust, so make sure you know what you need.
Affordable options like the BlueDriver or KOBRA work over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and sync/share data to your phone. These require some sort of companion app to share and relay information. These apps have become extremely useful with real-time information, temps, check engine lights, and more over the years. Some even stay in your car permanently and will alert your phone of potential problems.
- Torque Pro: This is probably the best overall option in terms of features, but the interface could use an update. It’s available for iOS or Android.
- OBD Fusion: Another excellent option is Fusion, which works on phones or tablets, enabling users to get plenty of information on a single display. It even works on the Apple Watch if you want to get fancy. It’s available for iOS or Android.
Keep in mind that these apps often cost a few dollars, too, on top of the scanner itself. Scanners like the FIXD brand have their own app, but for others, give these feature-rich apps a try.
The best overall option in terms of price/performance is from INNOVA. Not only will this read codes, but it also offers live data, battery or alternator testing, a built-in color screen, and even the ability to do “active testing.” This means you can make changes to your system on the handheld and push the changes live to your vehicle. Most scanners don’t offer such a feature, especially at this price, making it a great option for everyone. Just be careful with some of those advanced features unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Otherwise, you could damage your vehicle.
If you’re looking for a quick, simple, and effective OBD2 scanner, you can’t go wrong with the BlueDriver. It was one of the first BT scanners that worked with the iPhone, and it’s remained popular ever since. Actually, it works with both Android or iOS , and they have their own dedicated app to make things easy, too.
Simply plug in the BlueDriver, download the app, connect them over Bluetooth, and you’ll be ready to maintain your vehicle like a pro.
FIXD is an OBD2 scanner for modern times. It’s designed as a simple plug-and-play system that stays put and will always relay relevant vehicle information back to the owner. It’s a powerful tool for checking diagnostic trouble codes, but that’s just one of many features. FIXD has its own app, too, giving you freeze frame data, live diagnostics, and proactive vehicle maintenance reminders to keep your car running longer. Get it for Android or iOS. They’ll try to sell you a premium version of the app that helps show you how to repair problems, which some might enjoy.
Professional mechanics have all sorts of tools at their disposal, including a big powerful OBD2 scanning tool. Rather than a small dongle, the LAUNCH C-reader Pro is a do-it-all tablet that’s full of useful features. It’s more of an all-in-one scanner and reset device that’s perfect for a vehicle technician or aspiring mechanic.
Additionally, this model has a big screen full of information that supports over 60 vehicle brands in 10+ languages. It’s a very powerful tool that might be a bit overboard for regular folks but if you’re just getting into car mechanics, give it a try.
Finally, we wanted to offer an excellent little budget OBD2 scanner for all the at-home mechanics and DIY types. The KOBRA OBD2 scanner isn’t anything fancy, and you’ll need to download one of the apps mentioned earlier to use it. But once you do, you can check for misfires, read a CEL, clear codes, and even get real-time information. This is what I have along with the Torque Pro app, and it’s extremely useful.
The KOBRA works on iOS or Android, over BT or WiFi, but know that the experience isn’t as user-friendly or as polished as the more expensive BlueDriver mentioned above. Still, the price tag is hard to beat and way better than driving to AutoZone to have them scan your check engine light.