Last Updated on December 21, 2020
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, 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.
Top 5 Automotive Diagnostic Scanners
The best time to use a car scanning tool is when you are purchasing a used car without a warranty. If the owner will let you run your own diagnostic tests on the vehicle (if not, then it’s a red flag), then take advantage of the opportunity and do so. Then you’ll know if you are purchasing a car with systems that are functioning properly.
The higher the price of car, the more likely you also want to have an independent mechanic perform a full pre-purchase inspection.
Below are five of the best automotive diagnostic tools for the money. Many of them have digital screens and will produce codes that indicate what a particular problem is in the respective system.
The BlueDriver is considered to be a professional diagnostic automotive tool because professional American engineers developed it but is priced where the average car owner can afford it and super easy to use.
According to Garage Tool Advisor, it’s the 2nd best OBD2 scan tool on the market but after using it, I believe its versatility blows away any standalone scan tool unless you’re willing to spend a whole lot more on either the Maxisys Elite or Pro models below.
The unique feature about this model is that it has no built-in screen but instead transmits data to your Android or iOS mobile device. It makes a lot of sense since smartphones and tablets have more processing power and a higher screen resolution than other scan tool in the price range.
So, if you want to run diagnostic tests on your system, you can view the information right on your mobile screen.
More expensive than most other standalone models, the Autel MK808 aslo offers a lot more. A large, clear 7-inch LCD touchscreen makes it both easy to use and see.
It can provide a diagnosis of literally every system in your vehicle and give you a report on the health status of various components of the vehicle. The Autel MK808 has Wi-Fi capabilities and free software updates for life.
A very expensive tool made for professional mechanics, the Autel Maxisys Elite is the best of the best. It’s compatible with over 80 makes and models throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Updates for the tool’s software are available in real-time. Obvious overkill for someone who just changes their car’s oil, the Maxisys Elite offers unparalleled diagnostics along with advanced data logging and customer info organization.
The Maxisys Pro MS908P is another professional diagnostic tool that is superior to most others on the market. This one allows you to attach digital inspection cameras to the device so that you can see the problems more closely.
Features WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity along with advanced diagnostics and custom reprogramming and coding.
The Foxwell NT510 is an excellent scanning tool for diagnosing BMW model vehicles, whether they’re old or new (1987 to current).
Basic and advanced functions are built in including oil light resetting, control service internal resetting, brake deactivation, throttle body adjustment, DPF regeneration, and more.
This scan tool works specifically for BMW, Mini, and Rolls Royce models.