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There are fewer things that are more frustrating than taking your car to the dealership or to a mechanic. All too often, they can charge a significant amount of money just to run diagnostics on your car. That’s money out of your pocket before you even know what the issue is. You might be thinking “there has to be a better way?!?” Well, there is — it’s called an OBD2 scanner, and anyone can use one.
What Is an OBD2 Scanner?
OBD2 scanners (on-board automotive diagnostics) are essentially the same units that mechanics at the dealership plug into your car to diagnose a problem. Only when you own it, you don’t have to pay to have someone do it. You can do it yourself for free!
Some units do more than tell you what is going wrong with your car. In fact, they can help you stay up on your maintenance, get your car ready for emissions and even provide some guidance on potential parts and repairs. Others use Bluetooth connectivity so you can use your phone or tablet to read diagnostics.
Why Should You Buy an OBD2 Scanner?
Every car owner should consider having one of these units available. These OBD2 scanners will not only save you money at the dealership but will also help you stay on top of your car’s needs, eliminating the need to go to the dealership. That’s money that stays in your wallet.
Below are our recommendations for the best OBD2 scanners.
1. Innova 5310 OBD2 Scanner
When you add up convenience, features and price it’s hard to beat the Innova 5310 OBD2 scanner. Not only does this scanner tell you what issue might be troubling your car, but also provides repair and part advice. You can even clear oil light codes which the previous version of this scanner couldn’t do. And if you feel like viewing the readout information on your phone instead of the 2.8-inch screen you can thanks to Bluetooth connectivity.
Pros: It can clear oil-light codes.
Cons: Although handy, the 2.8-inch screen might be too small for some.
2. Topdon ArtiDiag500
This heavy duty OBD2 scanner looks, feels and performs like its industrial grade. The screen is rather large and heavy, but provides you with information about essentially all of your car’s systems and even has emissions testing to get your car ready for registration. The color display also provides a “health report” for your car so you can stay on top of your maintenance. The only qualm we have is the cable is relatively short, so you might not be as comfortable as you’d like when you’re using the scanner.
Pros: Runs a “health report” on your car to inform you of your car’s maintenance.
Cons: The cable is short making it a little uncomfortable to use.
3. Autel AL539
This durable and affordable OBD2 scanner helps you reduce trips to the mechanic. This scanner not only checks your engine, but your battery, electrical and braking systems for error codes. The built-in multimeter is especially handy when you are checking what state your vehicle’s battery is in. If you want to save a couple bucks, you won’t be disappointed going with this Autel.
Pros: Checks many systems and has a multimeter for your battery.
Cons: It doesn’t provide repair advice.
4. BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro
Although the unit is a bit on the bulkier side, it is actually a benefit when it comes to inserting and pulling it out of the port in your car. Once it’s inserted you’ll use your phone or tablet to get engine diagnostics and error codes. But not only does it give you the low-down on what’s happening with your systems, but also offers repair advice. There’s even what’s called a “Smog Check” feature to help get your car prepared for emissions testing.
Pros: You can use your phone or tablet to get readings on your car as well as repair advice.
Cons: No onboard screen and is rather bulky.
5. Fixd OBD2 Professional Bluetooth Scan Tool
This unit operates a little differently compared to other scanners mainly because it is designed to be plugged in and left in your car’s scanner port. It syncs with your phone and sends push notifications to your phone if any error codes come up and gives you a chance to prepare how to clear them. Not only does it help you with error codes, but also helps you stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance with push notifications and suggestions based on your car’s make and model.
Pros: Receive push notifications with helpful information on your car.
Cons: It doesn’t have a built-in screen and has to remain plugged into our scanner port.
6. FoxWell NT614 Elite OBD2 Scanner
If you’re the local neighborhood mechanic for your friends and family, or you do it for your profession, this OBD2 scanner can help you keep what car is having what problems in order. It’s one of the only OBD2 scanners with an SD card slot to help store car data, so if you’re working on multiple cars within a week, you can keep things in order. It even has programmable keys that can help you do different things with different cars. We wish it ran on battery power but that is a minor dig considering how advanced this unit is for the price.
Pros: Can store several cars’ information making it a great choice for local mechanics.
Cons: If you are a single car driver, you might not need the extras.
7. Thinkcar OBD2 Scanner
There are some definite advantages to going with this subscription-based OBD2 scanner. With over 100 automakers profiles available it’s a pretty sure thing that it’ll be able to track down manufacture specific codes. It can also turn off your oil light, and read codes for tire pressure and airbags. Admittedly, a yearly payment might seem steep to set up car profiles and the unit itself is rather heavy, but the information it provides for your car is stellar to say the least.
Pros: It can pull model specific codes to help narrow down what is happening with your car.
Cons: The subscription-based model can become expensive over time.
8. Autel Scanner MaxiCom MK808
The large display and functionality make the Autel OBD2 scanner especially easy to use. The information can be displayed in 13 different languages and it can perform a plethora of different service functions. The big downside is it costs a lot for annual database updates. So, if you’re a single car owner the sheer cost or reoccurring updates might not be worth it. On the other hand, if you’re a local mechanic, that information could be incredibly valuable.
Pros: The large display and huge library of information is amazing.
Cons: Updating the database can become tough financially.
9. Ancel BD310
This is a nifty little OBD2 scanner that provides a lot of convenience at an affordable price. It connects to your port with a cable but the unit can actually be placed in your dash vent as you drive not only providing readings for your vehicle but also live data like temperature checks. It can also connect to your phone via Bluetooth and the downloadable app. This opens up more functionality as you can get reports like average speed, and fuel consumption.
Pros: It can connect to your dash vent or be used with Bluetooth.
Cons: You’ll have to use your phone to get the most out of the scanner.
10. Foxwell NT301
This unit is affordable and uber helpful when trying to diagnose your car’s maintenance and engine troubles. It can turn off check engine lights and get you ready for emission testing while providing live data. It’s small enough to hold in one hand and the cable is long enough where you can be in a comfortable position while it is in use.
Pros: It can turn off check engine lights.
Cons: No Bluetooth connectivity with phone or other mobile devices.