Diagnosing any problems with your car is made much easier through the use of an on-board diagnostic scan tool. The latest iteration is the second version of this system that can save you thousands of dollars in scanning and diagnostics for your car. As a matter of fact, just getting a diagnostic can run upwards of $100 at dealerships and professional shops, so being able to bring this scanning functionality to your own garage is a great way to save cash.
Back in 1996, the on-board Diagnostics II system was made mandatory in every car produced in the United States. This system lets you know when a problem arises in your car so that you can react early to it and quickly get work done or repair the issue yourself. Let’s take a quick look at the types of scan tools that you can use on the market today:
Types

  • Standard – The standard OBD2 scanner will connect to a port that is positioned under the dash of your car. Some devices are internally battery powered, while others are powered through your car’s cigarette lighter. Once you’ve plugged in and powered the device, most devices will have a scan button that you’ll need to engage. Once engaged, the device will provide all of the information you need about your car’s functionality.
  • App-Based – The app based OBD2 scanner uses a physical device that communicates with your Smartphone and delivers information about your car’s systems and any issues happening there. Typically, this information is communicated through Bluetooth and will need an application in order to work properly. This version of the OBD2 scanning system is relatively new but is quickly gaining ground with people who are using smart home devices.

Features to look for
These types of devices vary greatly in features. Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Charging Style – As mentioned previously, these devices can vary in how they are powered. Some of these products have internal batteries that can be charged via a micro USB or other power connector, and some can be plugged directly into your car’s cigarette lighter for power. Since you’ll need to have your car powered-on in order for it to transmit its diagnostic data, there is only a slight degree of added convenience with a powered model.
  • Display – The displayed information will vary greatly from device to device, with some products having a larger or smaller LCD or LED screens that display various diagnostic readouts. Also, since each diagnostic system varies from car to car; how your OBD2 scanner handles the information and displays it will be an important consideration that you should consider when purchasing one of these units.
  • Code Decryption and Erasure – Most units, even basic ones have the ability to decrypt the problem codes of most cars and even erase them when a issue has been solved. This is a valuable feature as you can use these diagnostic codes to ensure that your mechanic is providing you with an honest appraisal of what’s happening in your car.
OBD2 ScannerBest Design FeaturePriceRating
Donop Professional U480 CAN OBD2 OBD II Car Diagnostic ScannerThis device’s LCD screen is very clear and features a backlight.$12.99Stars 4.1/5
ScanTool 426101 OBDLink MX Bluetooth: Professional OBD-II Scan Tool for Android & WindowsWorks across mobile platforms. Third party apps are also compatible with this product.$79.95Stars 4.2/5
INNOVA 3100 Diagnostic Scan Tool/Code ReaderThis product can even provide pending trouble codes.$115.83Stars 4.3/5
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & AndroidThis product is very easy to use, and Bluetooth is a very reliable protocol.$99.95Stars 4.5/5
Goliath Industry Wireless OBD2 Car Code Reader Scan ToolThis product has a database that has over 3000 code definitions.$18.99Stars 4.2/5
Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner PlusHas an expanded Asian database for those region’s cars.$199.96Stars 4.5/5
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD II & CAN Scan ToolThe Autel AutoLink has a large display for detailed information.$30.00Stars 4.5/5

1) Donop Professional U480 CAN OBD2 OBD II Car Diagnostic Scanner


Our first product is a low-cost device that will quickly tell you if you have any codes or pending codes in your car’s system. This device is a very cheap option, so while it may not have a lot of bells and whistles like some of the other devices on this list, it’ll still let you know what’s happening in your car’s system.
Firstly, there are only two buttons on this device. The first, which is a enter button, will allow you to enter menu items, begin the diagnostic scan, and engage the device. The second button is a scroll button that will allow you to scroll, in one direction, through the various menu items provided by the device. This is a self powered unit, so all you’ll have to do is plug it into the port under your dash and power on your car.
Reading the display is very easy as the product has a LCD backlight. The UI is very simplistic, but you really don’t need an overly complex process when you’re just trying to quickly diagnose car issues.
2) ScanTool 426101 OBDLink MX Bluetooth: Professional OBD-II Scan Tool for Android & Windows


This product is of a very different type from our first device. Firstly, this device depends on a adapter that attaches to your car’s ODB2 scan port. Once attached, you’ll be able to use Bluetooth to connect your mobile device or tablet up to the device, and in effect, your car. The adapter itself is tiny; it will easily fit in the palm of your hand. When you plug it in, you won’t have to deal with a cable that connects to a main device, which is a very convenient feature.
Once you’ve gotten the device connected to the port and have powered on the car, a green LED light will alert you that a connection has been established. After a few more seconds have elapsed, a blue LED will illuminate and blink. This blue indicator light is there to let you know that the Bluetooth is broadcasting so that you can connect your mobile device to it. Once connected, you can open the OBD Link app to receive reports on your car’s systems.
3) INNOVA 3100 Diagnostic Scan Tool/Code Reader


The Innova 3100 OBD2 scan device is a great way to check your car for faults and gain an overall diagnostic report. This device is able to read any car produced after 1996, but can also read some 1994 and 1995 cars as well. In addition to U.S. cars, this device can scan diagnostic systems from Asian and European car models.
This device supports three languages: English, French, and Spanish. The device has six different buttons which will help you accomplish a plethora of unique tasks. Some of the features that these buttons control are power link, which controls the machine when a active connection isn’t present; a button to erase diagnostic trouble codes; a button that provides diagnostic troubleshoot codes; and an enter button that doubles as a freeze frame button, which is very useful when there are multiple DTC codes in play.
In addition to these features, this device will automatically refresh every 30 seconds, which really helps you keep up to date on any new codes that may be detected. This device also has a battery backup that allows it to be used even when not connected to your car.
4) BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android


The fourth entry in our guide is the BlueDriver Bluetooth scanner. This product is designed to work with any of the popular mobile operating systems on the market today. This will allow you to easily monitor your scanning hardware’s output on a Smartphone or tablet with relative ease. In addition to this, while it’s technically designed for Android and iOS, you can also run it on Windows based phones and tablets through Android emulation. On top of all of this, the BlueDriver scanning unit is absolutely tiny; in fact, it’s only 2.2 inches in depth, 1.9 inches in width, and about one inch in height.
To receive the BlueDriver sensor device’s scanning info, you’ll need the BlueDrive application. Once installed, you’ll be able to receive codes, save information, and create interactive graphs that utilize the received scanning data. In addition to these features, the BlueDriver scanner and app system will allow you to have access to free, vehicle specific repair reports that are pulled from a database of 4.3 million vehicle fixes.
5) Goliath Industry Wireless OBD2 Car Code Reader Scan Tool


The Goliath Industry Wireless OBD2 Car Code Reader Scan Tool has built-in compatibility with all of the existing mobile operating systems including Windows Phone. Unlike the other app supported OBD2 devices that we’ve covered thus far, this particular unit does not work over Bluetooth, it actually uses Wi-Fi. While this might seem to be a weakness to some, this makes this particular product a perfect addition to a Wi-Fi enabled smart home.
Where this particular product really shines, in our opinion, is its inherent ability to work across applications. This means that even though you can use the manufacturer’s app to get your OBD2 readings, you can also use third party applications that may or may not provide you more or different information. Also, if your phone can support Wi-Fi broadcast, you can broadcast your connection to your car and connect away from home.
6) Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner Plus


When it comes to dedicated OBD2 scanning devices that aren’t app-based, you’d be hard pressed to find a more reliable product than the Actron CP9580A Enhanced AutoScanner Plus. This device has a great package of features that’ll help you get codes, obtain a screen graph about what’s happening in your car, and even freeze frame data when you need to. In addition to this, this device has multiple language modes as well.
This device also uses a database of 4.3 live fixes so that you can quickly find a solution to the problems that may be arising in your car. On top of all of this, this is a very ergonomic device that fits easily in the hand while in use. This device has become common in many auto shops, so if you purchase it, you know you’ll be getting the same diagnostic data at home that you’d pay over $100 for in a shop.
7) Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD II & CAN Scan Tool


The Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD II & CAN Scan Tool is one of the best OBD2 scan tools of its type on our list. It has a large color display so that you can easily read the information that it’s collecting from your car’s computer. In addition to this, it only takes about 30 seconds to provide a comprehensive report about what’s happening in your car’s numerous systems.
We really liked the fact that the device also uses very bright, color-coded LEDs to let you know what’s happening inside your car. Also, you’ll be able to freeze frame any data that’s being displayed on your OBD2 scan tool so that you can pore over it when you need to. In addition to all of this, it can provide detailed info about foreign and domestic cars with no extra downtime.
Conclusion
Running a scan with a dedicated OBD2 scanner can save you a lot of money during the life of your vehicle. You don’t necessarily have to pay a lot for one of these devices and you’ll be able to receive codes from your vehicle’s computer system with relative ease. If you don’t mind spending extra, there are also devices out there that’ll give you a much more comprehensive account of what’s happening in your vehicle as well. Both of these types are great and we’ve featured each type in this guide, so if you’re looking for one of these types of devices, take the time to do the due diligence, use this guide, and you’ll find the product for your needs.
If we were to select a best pick product, we really like the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool. It works over a Bluetooth connection, meaning that you can run a scan anywhere and the device is very small and unobtrusive. Also, the BlueDriver sensor communicates a good amount of data with the BlueDrive app.
On the other hand, in our opinion, the best bang for your buck of the products we’ve featured is the Goliath Industry Wireless OBD2 Car Code Reader Scan Tool. It has over 3000 code definitions in its database and can be used with a plethora of OBD2 apps. In addition to this, the device is very small and only costs about $19.