Whether you are a professional mechanic, a car enthusiast who loves their car, or someone who just wants to avoid paying expensive diagnostic fees at the local dealership, an automotive scan tool is one of the best investments you can make.
The best car scan tools don’t have to cost a fortune and usually pay for themselves in just one use.
OBD (on-board diagnostic) code readers allow you to troubleshoot various systems and functions of your vehicle, such as airbags, engines, emissions, suspensions, anti-lock braking systems and various other components.
Obviously, the function of these systems is critical to any car. Using a car code reader will ultimately let you know if the vehicle is safe to drive before they ultimately fail.
Whether you’re tired of taking your vehicle to the local parts store or you’re looking for a tool that will give you more information, the current generation of OBD2 scanners are cheaper and have more features than you might think.
We’ll break down everything you need to know to find the perfect scan tool for your vehicle.
1. Autel Scanner MaxiCOM MK808 OBD2 Scanner
If you’re looking for a scan tool that can do it all, then the Autel MK808 is the perfect scan tool for you. It works with 85 different car makes and models. Not only will it read all engine, PCM, TCM, ABS codes, and more, but it has multiple other functions that display live data as you troubleshoot.
Furthermore, this Autel scanner provides detailed reports that let you know the most likely cause of a problem. Even better, it has over 25 maintenance buttons that make it easier than ever to repair vehicles.
These features include ABS bleeding, battery registration, oil resets, injector coding, and so much more. While the price for this Autel scanner is on the higher side for an at-home scan tool, the extra features that it comes with more than makes up for the added cost.
The Autel MaxiCOM MK808 also comes with a 1-year warranty and 24/7 customer support. However, the yearly updates to add new vehicles and download the latest troubleshooting guidance costs just under $125. However, you don’t need to purchase these updates to continue to use all of the same features you’ve been using all year!
If you’re looking for an all-in-one scan tool that will put everything else in your garage to shame, this is what you want.
2. LAUNCH CRP129E OBD2 Scan Tool
It’s a more affordable version of the Autel scanner that we looked at above. While it has many of the same features, it doesn’t work with quite as many vehicles. That’s not to say it’s lacking, though. It works with more than 57 car brands and over 10,000 different vehicle types.
Furthermore, it comes with live data tracking for up to 10 different data streams simultaneously. Moreover, it comes with multiple maintenance features from oil resets, TPMS resets, battery voltage tests, steering angle calibration tools, and more!
The Launch CRP129E supports nine different languages and has free lifetime updates! When you buy this scanner, you won’t have to spend another penny to keep it working with the newest vehicles coming into the shop.
Of course, this scanner reads the engine, TCM, PCM, ABS codes, and everything else your vehicle could throw at you.
While the comprehensive features, free lifetime updates, and lower upfront cost are great, what really sets this scanner apart is the comprehensive 5-year warranty that it comes with. Make this the last scan tool you need to spend a dime on.
3. Actron CP9690 Elite OBD2 AutoScanner
While we focused our efforts on OBD2 scanners for these reviews, that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize that older vehicles have codes too. Standardized OBD2 codes didn’t become mandatory until 1996 before that OBD1 was the standard.
This scanner reads both OBD1 codes for GM, Ford, Chrysler, and Toyotas. From there, it reads codes for all newer OBD2 vehicles.
While this scanner looks simple, don’t let that fool you about what it can do. Just like the fancier looking scan tools, this scan tool can display live data from over 300 different sensors and inputs throughout your vehicle.
Furthermore, you can freeze frame data to take the extra time to pull all the information you need to troubleshoot a vehicle properly. The Actron CP9690 easy to use, does everything you could ask for, and doesn’t cost a bundle.
If you’re working on older vehicles in addition to newer ones, you want a scan tool that can handle it all – this one can.
4. Autel ML629 OBD2 Scanner
This Autel scanner is a much more lower-end option than the first one that we reviewed. While it comes with a much lower price tag, it also comes with far fewer features.
It works with any OBD2 vehicle, and it can pull codes and data in just a few seconds. Whether you’re looking for your current emissions or you’re troubleshooting a pesky ABS or SRS light, this scan tool can help you get the job done.
Despite its limited functionality beyond code reading, the Autel ML629 scanner does give you the ability to live stream from select input options. It’s not as comprehensive as their top model, but at a fraction of the price, it’s still a great deal. Even better, unlike their top model, the ML629 scanner comes with free updates for life!
Finally, this scan tool comes with a 1-year warranty giving you a little extra peace of mind that you’re getting a quality product.
5. BlueDriver Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool
The world has moved to mobile devices; why shouldn’t your scan tool? While this OBD2 scanner doesn’t look like much on the surface, when you pair it with their mobile app, you get a comprehensive vehicle diagnostic tool that can help you fix any vehicle.
It works great with both Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, but if you have an older phone that can’t handle the app, you’re out of luck.
Not only does this comprehensive scan tool give you your engine code, but it also connects you to an extensive database that automatically generates repair reports to help you fix your vehicle.
With the BlueDriver, you get free app updates, the ability to screenshot and save data easily, and the ability to interact with live data graphs to help break down the problem.
The best part about this forward-thinking scan tool is that it’s significantly cheaper than some other models out there.