Every new car today comes with ODB2 which is a federally mandated on board diagnostics computer which is used for service related matters. OBD2-equipped cars have a distinctive port hidden somewhere in the passenger compartment, into which a diagnostic device is connected. When your car is running rough or the check engine light is illuminated, a scan tool is often the first instrument deployed to isolate the issue.
While many auto parts stores will perform a scan for you either for free or for a nominal fee, nothing beats the convenience of having your own scan tool. We’ve chosen the best OBD2 scanners to keep handy in case things ever go wrong.
These selections were based on each scanners overall value, although most are not packed full of features. We've also opted to select well-rated and extremely user-friendly models which allow almost anyone to perform diagnostics on their own vehicle. All of the following selections offer a good balance of features and price, providing excellent all-around choices for even novice users.
Whether you're a home mechanic or not, having a simple code reader such as the Actron CP9125 is a smart investment. While this pocket-sized OBD2 scanner doesn't offer a long list of features or abilities, it is extremely easy to use every time the check engine light comes on. Read Full Review
The Actron CP9125 is a reasonably-priced, no-frills OBD2 scanner that’s dead simple to use. The CP9125 is very small and comes equipped with a single-line screen and two buttons. You won't find complicated multi-modes with the CP9125, just the benefit of a basic design characteristics for straightforward use.
No batteries are required; simply plug the tool in to the OBD2 port of your car and all of the codes are displayed on the screen.
Press one button to scroll through the codes and the other to clear the code. Some users point out the inaccuracy of the included code manual, but this complaint seems rather silly in today's information age where your smartphone can allow you access to the appropriate internet forums full of information regarding your particular vehicle.
The Actron CP9125 is very compact and will easily fit in the glove compartment or door pocket of your car. This is a great tool to have especially if your car is prone to throwing regular CELs that drive you up the wall.
The Autel AL519 OBD2 scanner offers a large color display and excellent functionality for a reasonable price. This scan tool is compact enough to be kept in your vehicle while being easy to use for everything from diagnosing codes to clearing a check engine light. Read Full Review
The Autel AL519 stands out for its large color display at an affordable price, making it even easier to run diagnostics and perform maintenance on your vehicle. This OBD2 scanner displays both generic and manufacturer codes, as well as additional vehicle information, although the extent of the reporting depends in part on your vehicle.
The AL519 can read, record, and play back live sensor data, and codes can be printed when the device is connected to a compatible computer. The device allows for clearing codes, turning off check engine lights, and suggests possible solutions for the problem.
The AL519 uses a 12-volt battery, and comes with both a USB cable and the necessary software to get everything up and running. This is overall an excellent diagnostics and maintenance tool, being compact in size and easy to use.
This basic OBD2 scanner is easy to use and offers the convenience of a compact size and large built-in screen. The INNOVA 3100 might not have a large amount of features, but it offers basic functionality for an affordable price. Read Full Review
The INNOVA 3100 is a basic and affordable code reader offering a large screen and ease-of-use. This OBD2 scanner is compact enough to be kept in your vehicle's glove compartment, despite having a large screen that can easily display relevant information. No battery is required to use this device, but it does come with battery back-up to make it easy to later review information on a computer.
A USB cable is also included for easy updates and once connected to the vehicle, the INNOVA 3100 refreshes data every 30 seconds, showing codes and pending codes. The device allows for clearing codes, and also provides suggestions on how to fix any issues. This basic and affordable OBD2 scanner works well and is easy to use, making it a great choice for those who don't need an expensive model with extensive functionality.
The Equus 3120 Innova is one of the few modern scan tools that can pull OBD1 codes, making it a great choice for drivers of older model vehicles. The 3120 comes with a more detailed display that explains each code briefly, and can store retrieved codes in its memory. Read Full Review
Not all cars are equipped with OBD2 ports so if you drive a 1995-or-older vehicle, it uses a discontinued format of on-board diagnostics instead. Most of these vehicles are fitted with OBD1 ports, which are shaped differently than OBD2 outlets. The Equus 3120 Innova offers the ability to scan codes from older OBD1 vehicles, and boasts a long list of extra convenience features that make this code reader an extremely versatile tool.
The detailed readout explains any pulled codes in plain text (English, French, and Spanish), and the battery allows codes to be stored in the on-board memory for future reference. The only drawback is the higher price - on the other hand, the Equus 3120 Innova is an excellent value if you require the extra functionality.
The BAFX Products Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool offers the convenience of an extremely compact size and the ability to be used with your Android smartphone. This small scanner does not include a screen of its own, but provides a full range of functionality when used with an Android smartphone or a Windows laptop. Read Full Review
The BAFX Products Bluetooth OBD2 Scan Tool can be used in conjunction with either an Android smartphone or a Windows laptop. Although the app and programs for each need to be purchased separately, they can usually be had for free or for an affordable price.
This Bluetooth scan tool allows for reading both generic and manufacturer codes, also displaying their meaning and allowing for clearing codes and check engine lights. However, the amount of vehicle information displayed will depend on both the vehicle and the app/software used.
This extremely compact scan tool can easily be kept in the car and can be used as long as your Android smartphone is with you. Along with its one-year warranty, this OBD2 scanner offers tremendous convenience and affordability.