11 Best Automotive Scan Tools (for Home and Professional Use)

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. This means we may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Last Updated on June 17, 2021

Whether you’re a professional mechanic, a car enthusiast who enjoys working on their own cars, or just someone who wants to avoid expensive diagnostic fees at your local dealership, a car scan tool is one of the best investments you can make.

The best automotive scan tool doesn’t have to cost a fortune and can often pay for itself in only one use.

An OBD (on-board-diagnostics) code reader give you the ability to troubleshoot various systems and features of your vehicle, such as the airbag, engine, emissions, suspension, anti-lock braking system, and various other components.

Obviously, the functionality of each of these systems is critical for any car. Before they end up failing on you, using a car code reader will ultimately let you know if the vehicle is safe to drive or not.

Whether you’re tired of taking your vehicle to the local parts store or you’re looking for a tool that gives you a little more information, the current generation of OBD2 scanners are cheaper and do more than you think.

In this comprehensive guide of the best OBD2 scanners on the market, we’ll break down everything you need to know to find the perfect scan tool for your vehicle.

Skip to: Best Professional Diagnostic Scanners

Best Automotive Scan Tools for Home Use

Not everyone needs the most comprehensive scan tool available. Whether you’re a DIY mechanic or looking to troubleshoot a few vehicles to make a few bucks on the side, these are the scan tools you’re looking for.

#1 – Autel Scanner MaxiCOM MK808 OBD2 Scanner

best OBD2 scannerIf 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

automotive scan tool reviewsIt’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

Actron CP9690 reviewWhile 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

Autel ML629 reviewThis 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

best automotive scan toolThe 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.

#6 – OBDeleven Pro Diagnostic Scan Tool 

best scan tool for Audi or VolkswagenIf you drive an Audi, VW, or other VAG (Volkswagen Auto Group) vehicle, the OBDeleven Pro should be at the top of your list for a scan tool. This Bluetooth enabled scanner has many advanced functions but is easy to use no matter your skill level.

This scan tool is compatible with Android devices and provides an in-depth list of functions. The OBDeleven is capable of accessing a wide array of vehicle DTCs and offers the ability to perform a number of diagnostic tests.

Technically adept users will find the OBDeleven Pro to be quite useful when attempting to validate repairs and relearn certain automated vehicle functions. This unit also allows users to access numerous dealer specific menus where you can customize your vehicle’s default settings (which isn’t possible with other diagnostic scan tools).

While it’s an excellent tool if you have an Android powered device, those with iPhones or other Apple products are out of luck if they want to be able to use all features. But as an alternative, purchasing a cheap Android tablet is a good workaround. OBDeleven also makes a standard edition which is less feature-rich but comes at a lower price point.

#7 – ANCEL FX2000 Vehicle OBD2 Scanner

top rated OBD2 scan toolThis scan tool provides tons of great features for a fraction of the cost of some of the more expensive scan tool models out there. The tradeoff is that it doesn’t cover as many vehicles.

While it covers any post-1996 US-made vehicle, it only covers vehicles produced after 2002 from the EU and 2005 from Asian countries. It does support eight different languages, and if you’re only using it on newer vehicles, it will do everything you could want and more.

It reads engine, ABS, SRS, and PCM codes and lives streams data from each of these symptoms to help you troubleshoot the problem. Additionally, it can run emission tests on your vehicle to help you pass smog or emission tests.

Not only do you get a great deal on the scan tool up front, but with free lifetime updates, they aren’t nickel and diming you down the road either.

While the Ancel FX2000 only works on some vehicles after 1996, it will still read basic engine codes for any vehicle with an OBD2 system. However, you will not be able to utilize live data streaming or other advanced features.

#8 – Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner

Autel AL319 reviewIf you’re looking for a low-end scan tool that can read your engine codes and freeze frame limited data, this might be what you’re looking for. It’s a 10th of the price of the top Autel scanner we looked at, but it also has a 10th of the features.

It only reads check engine codes and won’t give you any troubleshooting advice beyond the code name and description. But if you’re a competent mechanic and don’t mind scrubbing a few forums for more complex issues, then this OBD2 scanner will be more than enough to get you started.

This scan tool works with all vehicles made in the United States after 1996. For European vehicles, it works with vehicles produced after 2000. If the vehicle has an OBD2 system, this scan tool will work at reading the codes.

Finally, the Autel AL319 scanner comes with a 1-year warranty, but most simple scan tools like this last much longer.

Best Professional Car Diagnostic Tools

If you’re working in a shop, you need a scan tool jam-packed with features. That’s precisely what these scan tools provide.

#1 – Autel MaxiCOM MK908 Bi-Directional Diagnostic Scan Tool

best professional automotive scan toolThe Autel MK908 is a top-of-the-line scan tool that does everything you could ever dream of. This bi-directional diagnostic tool works with over 80 different vehicle models, reads every code available, and performs a wide array of maintenance functions.

Whether you’re looking for a standard engine code or need to read a BCM, PDM, EPS, or any other vehicle module, this scan tool can handle it. It provides maintenance functions for ABS bleeding, pump testing, engine oil resets, and so much more.

Moreover, it gives you the ability to live stream data from various sensors and freeze-frame that data for easier troubleshooting.

The Autel MaxiCOM MK908 works wirelessly from up to 755 feet away. Whether you’re working on the other side of the shop or in the driver’s seat, this scan tool can handle it. The biggest drawback to this scan tool is the upfront cost. But if you need a professional level scan tool, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Finally, like all Autel scan tools, this one comes with a 1-year warranty, but you will need to purchase yearly updates to keep this scan tool up to date with all the newest vehicles.

#2 – Launch X431 V+ Bi-Directional Scanner

Launch professional diagnostic scannerThis professional-quality OBD2 diagnostic scanner comes with everything you need to troubleshoot and repair every code that a vehicle can throw at you. As an added perk, it comes loaded with over 24 languages, so no matter where you are in the world, this scan tool can break everything down for you.

Like all the best professional scan tools, this Launch model comes with active testing capabilities and bi-directional data. This means you run ABS bleeding, gear resets, injector coding, and so much more with the touch of your finger!

While this scan tool is more expensive than the DIY options, it does everything an $8,000 Snap-On scan tool does for a fraction of the cost.

The Launch X431 V+ works with over 10,000 different vehicles and comes with one of the industry’s best warranties – a five-year comprehensive warranty. No more worrying if this scan tool is going to make it through the first couple of years!

#3 – Autel MaxiPRO MP808K Professional Diagnostic Scan Tool

Autel MP808K reviewIt’s the most affordable professional-level scan tool that we found. While it’s still more expensive than the home mechanic options, it’s because it comes packed with more features.

The Autel MP808K can read any code that your vehicle throws at you and works with more than 80 different vehicle models. Additionally, it comes with tons of features that any professional shop needs. From key programming to ABS bleeding, this scan tool does it all.

Keep in mind that this scan tool, like most professional scan tools, require a paid subscription to keep everything updated year after year. While the update isn’t necessary to continue using the scanner, you won’t gain access to all the newest vehicles and troubleshooting guide if you don’t purchase the upgrade.

It comes with a 1-year warranty, so you don’t have to worry about getting a dud out of the box. Bang for the buck, it’s hard to beat the Autel MP808K.

OBD2 Scan Tool Buying Guide

Finding the perfect OBD2 scanner for your vehicle can seem like a daunting task, and if you don’t know where to start, it can be. Luckily for you, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the perfect scan tool for you.

Double Check Compatibility

The most important thing you want to verify when buying a scan tool for your vehicle is that it will work with your car. While most modern vehicles utilize an OBD2 system, some older vehicles use OBD1.

Take the little extra time to verify what your vehicle has and if the scan tool you’re purchasing will work on it.

How Much Do You Know?

If you’re looking at getting a cheap and simple code reader but don’t know a thing about mechanics, it likely won’t do you any good. On the other hand, some of the more expensive scan tools come with troubleshooting tips and advice from actual mechanics that can steer you in the right direction.

If you’re looking at purchasing a scan tool to save a little money at the repair shop, make sure you’re getting a tool that lets you accomplish those goals!

Frequently Asked Questions

We know there are tons of questions surrounding scan tools. That’s why we answered some of the most common questions below to clear up any confusion!

What Can an OBD2 Scanner Do?

Basic OBD2 scanners only read engine codes. However, many scan tools come with OBD2 scanners built right in. That’s why almost every OBD2 scanner out there has more features than a simple code reader.

Do I Need a Code Reader or a Scan Tool?

While the two tools are often confused with each other. Scan tools provide much more information and data than a code reader. Code readers provide you with the basic code, but they don’t give you anything else.

Scan tools on the other hand, provide a wide array of functions. They tell you the code, break down what the code means, provide live data streams, and often break down the most common cause of the code and how to fix it.

If you’re a competent mechanic and know how to troubleshoot different codes than a code reader might be all you need. But a scan tool speeds up the process and ensures even the most competent mechanic that they’re replacing or repairing the right part the first time.

Why Do Automotive Scan Tool Prices Vary So Much?

There are three main reasons that automotive scan tool prices vary so much: the scan tool brand, how many vehicles the scan tool works on, and the number of features on the scan tool.

The manufacturer is one of the biggest factors that determine the price of a scan tool. That’s why Snap-On scan tools can cost close to $10,000, but they don’t offer any more features or work on any more vehicles than most 1,000 dollar scan tools. Certain brands simply have a premium.

While other Snap-On tools may be worth their price, we’ve found some (namely Autel and Launch) pro diagnostic tools are just as good or very close to it.

From there, many scan tools only work on a select number of vehicles. If they don’t work on pre-OBD2 vehicles they’re often cheaper than those that only work on newer cars.

Furthermore, many scan tools offer diagnostic troubleshooting, wireless features, blake breed assist, and so much more. The more features a scan tool comes with the higher the price tag.

Are Car Diagnostic Scanners Universal?

Yes and no. While any OBD2 scanner can read engine codes on a vehicle with OBD2, that’s where the universal functions stop. The diagnostic advice, maintenance features, and everything else only works on specific vehicles depending on the tool – even if it has OBD2.

 

47 thoughts on “11 Best Automotive Scan Tools (for Home and Professional Use)”

    • For most people, the BlueDriver listed above is more than enough. Something like the Innova 3150 is great if you want a dedicated screen. The Autel MaxiCOM MK808 above is also fantastic but you’ll pay a bit more.

      Reply
      • Hello if the scanner is needed for work which would be the best? My hisband is a mechanic and I’d like to give him a scanner as a gift but would like to know which is best for him?? Help please 🙂

        Reply
        • If it’s for work and your husband is like me, he will be a bit particular with the features he’s looking for in a given tool. For that reason I can’t give a specific recommendation. What would he think about getting money toward a scan tool of his choice instead?

    • So many scan tool in market.
      You should list your car model and request for the scan tool features.

      Reply
      • I intend setting up vehicles diagnostic scanning workshop can you help me by recommending the best I can purchase
        Thanks

        Reply
        • If you are going to run a business doing automotive diagnostics, you are probably going to want an advanced scan tool like an Autel MaxiSys Elite or Ultra.

  1. Hello. I Was interested In the Autel MaxiCOM. You stated that it has free updates for life. Everywhere I look. I only see 1 YR free updates. Where can I purchase from with free lifetime updates? Thank you

    Reply
  2. I want to buy the best diagnosis machine which can scan different types of vehicles from cars to buses or lorries, Advise me please

    Reply
  3. Thanks for the article and research. My question.. i have cars ranging from 1986 Mercedes to 1995 Ford f250 to 2010 Subaru. I’d like one diagnostic system. Is that possible?

    Reply
  4. I want an easy-to-use all types of car scanner. What are the types available and cost. How can I trust shipment and who can I easily refer to if anything goes wrong with my money. I bank with United Bank of Africa (UBA) in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Can I pay through this bank?
    Victor

    Reply
    • I’m not sure about your payment options in Sierra Leone. My favorite scan tool is the Blue Driver scan tool (our #1 pick). It is very user friendly and fairly inexpensive for what it offers. You will need a phone with a Bluetooth capability to use this one. The scanner will run you about $100 USD.

      Reply
  5. what scanner do i need for my 2014 nissan navara D40 automatic
    i need to re program injectors,throttle body, exhaust, turbo, pretty much everything has just basically been rebuilt

    thanks in advance

    Reply
  6. Please, I need a universal scanner that can work perfectly on BMW X5 2005, VW Tiguan 2013, and Nissan Primera 2003. Among the listed devices which one should I go in for?

    Reply
  7. Whats the best Diagnostic Scanners for someone like me who is not a mechanic by professional,Am an accountant but i want to use it for commercial purposes

    Reply
    • BlueDriver is an excellent tool that uses your phone as its user interface via a Bluetooth connection. It is very intuitive, gives you lots of data, and is easy to use.

      Reply
  8. Good evening,
    I live in the US and purchased a ThinkDiag when it came out from ThinkCar. I am not real car savvy, but I am trying to learn. I know the data stream shows values and posts the results in red if out of spec for the vehicle. I have a hard time understanding what some of the results mean such as long term fuel trim and such. I apologize for this ridiculous post, but I would like to know if that scan tool is as good as an Autel or Bosch(not covered in this thread, but it seems like a good tool when I see private mechanics use them. Does the Autel or Bosh make the results easier to understand rather than the ThinkDiag? Also, things like community support or even support from the manufacturer. ThinkDiag was fairly cheap for what it does in my opinion.
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Jay, good on you for trying to learn more about cars.

      The Autel and Bosch scanners are on a completely different level from ThinkDiag, and geared more toward professionals who do this type of work every day. I would actually say the results are harder to understand from Autel and Bosch, because those tools require more training and background knowledge to understand the scan data. Tools like these let you monitor signals over time from any sensor in the vehicle, and come with make and model specific technical data that can aid in advanced electrical diagnostics.

      I have never used a ThinkDiag, but it seems like a really nice alternative to BlueDriver. I have a BlueDriver scanner and really like it. These are great tools for the home mechanic, and are likely to have more user friendly documentation for people who want to fix their own car in their garage.

      There are many terms for parameters monitored by these tools. Start by learning a bit about how the ECU monitors the sensors around the engine. From there, you can start looking up terms like “long term fuel trim” and learn about which parameters are expected, what positive/negative numbers mean, etc. It’s really interesting stuff. Good luck and let me know if you have any more questions.

      Reply
  9. Good morning,

    I drive a 2020 Changan CS35 Luxury ( a Chinese make); I was wondering if the above -mentioned scanners are compatible or not? If not, please, any recommendation for most of these Asian makes and especially for my Changan CS35?

    I have been combing through the market and can’t seem to get hold on one for my car.

    I shall be very grateful if you can help me with any info.

    Thank you.

    Amos

    Reply
    • I don’t know, you’ll have to do a bit of research or ask around locally. We don’t have that vehicle in my country. If Chanagans use the OBD2 standardization most of these should work fine.

      Reply
  10. What scanner will communicate with CCM,ATM,PCM,ABS,AND SRS WOULD be nice. Looking for something for the home shop of a retired tech. Only going 2016 back. (OTC, Snap-on, bosch???

    Reply
  11. Hello,

    I want to place an order of Bosch 3970 ADS 625 Diagnostic Scan Tool .Email me with the price of each and let me know the lead time .

    Best Regards
    Ernest

    Reply

Leave a Comment