Best OBD2 Scanners: Get Tested

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Top 8 Best OBD2 Scanners

It’s a common carp that today’s cars cannot be fixed with a simple hammer and some common tools. The days of Dave Bowman and Sam Memmolo doing a shade-tree fix on their buddy’s ’83 Monte Carlo are long gone, though pleasant memories remain of watching that show on Saturday mornings.

If diagnosing your vehicle’s problems ranks high on your Top 40 for weekend projects, one could do worse than plunking down the cash for an OBD2 scanner. Determining why that irritating check engine light is on can prevent untold sums being wasted on games of ‘guess the part’ as various items are replaced in an attempt to extinguish what’s quickly becoming your car’s own eternal flame.

As with all posts encouraging car repair, the bedwetting VS lawyers are exhorting us to remind all hands to perform all tasks in a safe manner in a safe environment. Got that? Good. Now let’s see what Amazon is serving up in terms of handy diagnostic scanners.

Table of Contents

1. Editor's Choice: BlueDriver LSB2 Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone & Android

If you’ve read these posts before (and I thank all three of you who do so), it’ll come as no surprise that a technologically advanced option leads this list. Pairing to an app on your iOS or Android device, this scan tool plugs right into the OBD port to scan your car’s digital brain. The app has a database of fixes recommended by ASE Certified Mechanics.

BlueDriver says they’re one of the only scan tools serving p a complete set of diagnostics, as some other devices may only report on the basics. One can display each data source as a graph or gauge, get a snapshot of the vehicle using the Freeze Frame feature, and even determine if your rig is ready for an emissions test. It’s worth noting that this product has nearly 12,000 reviews, the most by far of anything appearing on today’s list, with about 90% giving this device four stars or more.

Pros

  • Convenient readouts right to your phone, no long and tangly cords

Cons

  • Relies on another device that needs to be properly charged

Bottom Line

  • Great for the technophile

2. kungfuren OBD2 Scanner, Universal

Despite its mystifying name, this code reader is very affordably priced and enjoys a 4.8 star rating on Amazon. Iteatures built-in OBD2 DTC lookup library, helping you to determine the cause of that pesky malfunction light.

No need any battery or charger, this OBD reader gets the power directly from your vehicle through the OBD2 Data Link Connector. Just simply plug in the OBD interface to start diagnosis. The cable is just 2.5 feet in length, so you’ll be sitting inside the car while reading this compact unit. Six buttons and a large LCD screen make for good scores in the ease-of-use category.

Pros

  • Stellar reviews, not very expensive

Cons

  • Short leash

Bottom Line

  • A great gadget for the toolbox

3. ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner

Similar to the unit above but just slightly different in size, this reader from Ancel will at least hide all the dirt you’ll get on it from handling it with your grubby hands. It promotes itself as having a ‘classic design’ and the ability to heave out error codes so you can figure out what’s wrong with your car this week.

It has about half the amount of feedback as the most widely reviewed scanner on this list but it still acquits itself well with a 4.6-star rating. It’ll diagnose the engine system, dout the check engine light, and perform a battery test. Its large LCD screen is backlit, so you’ll even be able to read it after your spouse turns off all the garage lights and tells you to go to bed.

Pros

  • Built-in lookup library, defines the error code

Cons

  • Small cord length

Bottom Line

  • A solid pick from a recognized name

4. FOXWELL NT201 Auto OBD2 Scanner

The first of our Foxwell picks allows budding mechanics to read and erase fault codes, retrieve I/M readiness and freeze frame data, plus show live data in a text or graph format. Oxygen sensor and evap tests are on board this little diagnostic wizard as well.

It has a built-in speaker to accompany its 2.4-inch color LCD display screen, a neat party tricks which offers visual and audible indication for readiness verification. A unique dust-resistant surface makes this auto scanner tool more durable in the hands of Not-So-Gentle Ben. As a plug and play unit, no batteries are required.

Pros

  • Plug and read simplicity, audible alerts

Cons

  • Getting expensive for a basic unit

Bottom Line

  • Use the beeps and boops to record your own mechanic’s remix

5. FOXWELL NT301 Professional OBD2 Scanner

If the last Foxwell was a 201 model, this 301 model should be a hundred better, right? Well, maybe. It is about double the price, so that checks out, and it does have a raft of buttons on its face which do not appear on its cheaper brother.

A data log can be kept to review codes at a later time. It’s even capable of finding issues if the CEL is not on thanks to a three-second press of the big blue I/M button which checks to determine if all emission-related monitors are ready for a smog test. It comes with a natty carrying case as well, if you care about that type of stuff (hint: you should).

Pros

  • Smog-test capability, meaty rubber buttons, big screen

Cons

  • Windows-only compatible (no Mac)

Bottom Line

  • Study carefully before spending out on this versus the 201 model

6. FOXWELL NT624 Elite All Systems Diagnostic Scan Tool

This is the last Foxwell-branded scanner, we promise. Here’s a handheld brute that looks like the devices mechanics were gripping tightly with both hands and looking at in befuddlement back in the ‘90s when all this OBDII stuff first appeared.

Unlike most other scanners, this thing is capable of clearing ABS and TPS lights in addition to OBDII items like the check engine light. There are ten test modes, all accessed either though the works-with-gloves buttons or the large 4.3-inch TFT screen. It also permits mechanics to perform service and maintenance to electronic parking brakes, thanks to a brain which talks to those types of systems. This is a handy piece of kit.

Pros

  • Diagnoses and plays well with just about every system on your car

Cons

  • Super expensive for the DIYer

Bottom Line

  • At least you’ll look like you know what you’re doing

7. Autel MaxiSys MS906BT Automotive Scan Tool

If the price of the previous scanner on this list caused heart palpitations then this thing will provoke a full-on cardiac arrest. Listing at over a thousand bucks, this pro-grade automotive scanner gives us little people a peek into just how computer-centric and diagnosis-heavy modern cars have become in the year 2020.

Capable of supporting an oscilloscope or digital inspection camera add-ons, this tool has bi-directional control capability. This doesn’t mean it talks back to you; rather, it means one can perform active function tests, like ABS brake bleeding, to determine the integrity of the system or parts. this is accomplished by reading the ECU data or monitoring the operation of the actuators, permitting the switching of a solenoid or switch between two operating states.

Pros

  • Everything but the price

Cons

  • The price

Bottom Line

  • Possibly the last word in diagnostics ... until the next upgrade

8. VDIAGTOOL OBD2 Code Reader Reader+

Sometimes, a basic reader is all that’s needed to erase trouble codes and douse that check engine light before selling the thing on Craigslist (whoops; I said that last part out loud, didn’t I?). Despite its bargain-basement price, this scanner is also capable of reading I/M readiness status before you drag yourself and the car into a smog station.

With a 3.5" Backlit LCD display about 2/3 of the code reader, diagnostic data is clearly visible even to those of us with eyesight worse than Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys. A written definition of most codes will be displayed on the screen and, like the other units here, its plug and play nature means no batteries are required.

Pros

  • Affordable, I/M readiness, decently big screen

Cons

  • Won’t help with ABS or TMPS errors

Bottom Line

  • Cheap insurance

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Andrey Aboltin / ShutterStock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

More by Matthew Guy

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