One of the most annoying aspects of owning a car is that pesky check-engine light. While we are all thankful when this light clues us in on a problem before it gets any worse, it can come on for hardly any reason at all. Getting it checked and turned off can cost more money than you might think, and repairing your car yourself is almost out of the question if you can’t figure out what the check-engine light is trying to tell you. Luckily, it is possible to purchase an OBD-II Scanner for home use. These scanners hook up to a car’s onboard computer for self-diagnostics and reporting and can allow you to figure out what is wrong with your vehicle without taking it to an expensive mechanic.
We reviewed dozens of OBD-II scanners while on our search for the best of the best. On our search, we rated each OBD-II scanner based on ease of use, customer reviews, cable length, speed, compatibility, the range of codes read, and accuracy of code definitions.
In the end, the ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner easily stood out as the best OBD-II scanner on the market. It is extremely easy to use, even if you aren’t a car professional. By just plugging it in and clicking a few buttons, you can read an error code in mere minutes. It even allows you to view freeze frame data, read hard memory, pending and historic codes, and explains what each code means.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated OBD-II Scanners
|Best Overall||ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner||4.5|
|Runner Up||ANCEL AD410 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader||4.3|
|Best Budget Buy||BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader/Scanner||4.4|
|Best Basic OBD2 Scanner||Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner||4.4|
|Best Professional OBD2 Scanner||SEEKONE OBD2 Scanner Professional Car OBD II Scanner||4.6|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner
Unless you’re a car professional and know all the error codes by heart, using a basic scanner can be difficult. Luckily, the ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner has everything you need to easily figure out what is wrong with your car so that you can decide on your next step. This scanner features a classic design and only has four buttons. You simply plug it into the OBD2 port on your car, which is usually located underneath the handbrake on the console or underneath the dash, and turn on the ignition. Then, this extremely easy to use scanner will tell you what error codes your car’s computer is displaying and tell you what they mean.
Besides the basic reading codes function, this scanner can also perform a number of other tasks. It can erase certain codes, perform an I/M readiness test, and turn off the check engine light. It also allows you to read freeze frame data, read hard and pending memory, and show historic codes. It tells you what all of these codes mean so that you don’t have to worry about memorizing them or having to look them up yourself. For those who aren’t very vehicle savvy, this scanner is wonderful because it allows you to easily see what is wrong with your car before you take it to the mechanic. If you are well experienced with vehicles, you will get a lot of use out of this scanner’s more advanced functions as you perform tune-ups and get your car ready for a smog check.
ANCEL AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner Key Features:
- Quickly reads codes and provides their definitions
- Can turn off our check engine light
- Has a number of advanced functions
- Extremely easy to use
Our Runner Up: ANCEL AD410 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader
If you’re looking for something with a little more power, the ANCEL AD410 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader is a wonderful choice. It has a 2.4” color display screen that makes it easier it easier to see the results and read the codes correctly. With an easy to read and navigate the main menu, you can select from a wide range of options from your basic code reading to DTC lookup to I/M readiness diagnosis. Whether you are a mechanic yourself, an inspiring “car guy,” or love tinkering with your own car, this scanner is a must-have accessory.
This scanner’s most basic function is reading error codes. It makes it possible to read and erase stored codes from your computer’s onboard computer, which allows you to get a handle on your car’s problem before you race off to the mechanic. This saves you time, trips to the mechanic, and money. The last thing you want is for a mechanic to tell you that your gas cap was just a little loose and then charge you $300. This scanner allows you to see what is wrong with your car so that you can possibly fix it yourself or at least know what is going on when you show up at the mechanic.
This scanner also has a number of more advanced capabilities. It can reset your emissions monitor before you get it checked to ensure that the reading is as accurate as possible. It can also turn off the check engine light and shows emission related codes, pending codes, and code definitions.
ANCEL AD410 Enhanced OBD II Vehicle Code Reader Key Features:
- Turn check engine light off
- Shows codes and their definition
- Helps reset emissions monitor
- Advanced, LCD display
Best Budget Pick: BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader/Scanner
Not everyone has a whole bunch of money to dish out on an OBD-II scanner. If you’re only going to use it once, it isn’t really practical to spend a lot of money. After all, the purpose of an OBD-II scanner is to save you money. If you don’t want to purchase an expensive scanner or really aren’t planning on using it more than once, the BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader/Scanner is the scanner you need. This isn’t your typical OBD-II scanner. Instead of having its own display, this scanner uses your Android device as the display and relays the information through Bluetooth. That is why it is significantly less expensive than other scanners.
This scanner is guaranteed to work on all USA vehicles model year 1996 or newer. It reads all protocols, not just a few or the most popular ones like some other cheaper scanners. This means that it works on a wider variety of cars and increases the chance that it will work for your vehicle. It covers every brand vehicle and model from 1996 and onwards. It also comes with a two-year warranty that covers any manufacturing defects.
BAFX Products Bluetooth Diagnostic OBDII Reader/Scanner Key Features:
- Works with Android Devices
- Supports all protocols
- Two-year warranty
Best Basic OBD2 Scanner: Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner
Do you just need a basic code reader without all the fancy bells and whistles many of the models feature? Then the Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner is for you. It has only basic capabilities, which makes it cheaper than some more advanced models and easier to use for beginners who might not understand much car lingo. Simply plug it in, and it displays the status of your car in full color with a very intuitive design. It supports a wide variety of languages and works on both foreign and domestic cars. It can turn off the malfunction indicator light and tell you why it turned on in the first place. It can read both generic codes and manufacturer specific codes, which makes it usable on a wide variety of vehicles.
If you live in an area where emissions testing is mandated, it can also run a quick I/M readiness check and drive cycle verification to make sure that your vehicle will pass the testing before you take it in. The brightly colors LED screen ensures that your results are easy to read. It even uses audible indications as well, which is great if your eyes don’t work like they use to or if you’re afraid you’ll misread your results. Because it plugs straight into your car, it requires no electricity or batteries to work. Instead, it is powered through your car.
Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Scanner Key Features:
- I/M readiness check
- Supports foreign and domestic vehicles
- Reads codes and erases them
- Easy to read screen with audio tones
Best Professional OBD2 Scanner: SEEKONE OBD2 Scanner Professional Car OBD II Scanner
Truthfully, lots of people besides just professionals would benefit from a professional OBD-II scanner, especially if you like tuning and working on your own vehicle. The SEEKONE OBD2 Scanner Professional Car OBD II Scanner is designed to be a professional-grade scanner for home use. It can quickly read and erase engine fault codes and comes to equip with on-screen definitions so you can quickly figure out what is wrong with your vehicle. It even comes with a built-in code library that can help you figure out the cause of each code. Of course, it can turn off your check engine light as well. Besides checking your engine fault codes, this scanner also lets you view your car’s I/M readiness, numeric live stream of data, and automatically get your VIN number. Plus, it can also monitor your emissions and let you know very quickly whether or not your vehicle meets your state’s requirements.
This scanner is compatible with most U.S. gasoline vehicles from 1996 onwards and most EU and Asian vehicles from 2001 onwards. It is equipped with a unique one-click design that makes it extremely easy to use, even for beginners. It can read nearly every kind of protocol, including CAN and J1850. Many customers reported that this scanner was extremely durable, able to withstand a 15-foot drop. There really is no reason not to have this scanner as part of your everyday toolbox.
SEEKONE OBD2 Scanner Professional Car OBD II Scanner Key Features:
- Compatible with many vehicles
- Advanced features
- Very durable
- Lifetime warranty
Who Should Buy an OBD-II Scanner?
Even if you aren’t very good with cars, an OBD-II scanner can save you lots of money. When you take your car to a mechanic, the first thing they do is plug in a scanner and read the codes your car’s onboard computer gives them. This gives them a pretty good idea of what is going on and allows them to fix it. However, an OBD-II scanner can allow you to view this information at home, which can save you lots of time and money. Very small, easy-to-fix problems can cause your check engine light to come on. For example, if you don’t get your gas cap on exactly right or it comes slightly loose while you’re driving, your car’s computer can occasionally detect this can turn your check engine light on. Of course, you don’t need to go to a mechanic to simply tighten your gas cap. But, if you don’t have an OBD-II scanner, that might very well be what you end up doing.
Even if the problem isn’t something you can fix by yourself, knowing the problem before you take your car over to the mechanic can help speed up the process of fixing your car. If you already know what is wrong with it, letting the mechanic know always them to get started right away. Plus, you’ll have a pretty good idea what the damage to your bank account will be before you even bring your car to the mechanic.
Important Features to Consider
An OBD-II scanner should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting an OBD-II scanner for your car:
- Compatibility. While most high-end OBD-II scanners will be compatible with most modern cars, some of the cheaper ones only read a single protocol. This greatly shrinks the number of cars they are compatible with, which can cause you to unnecessarily spend money on a scanner that doesn’t work with your car. We suggest only choosing OBD-II scanners that are compatible with a wide range of cars. The last thing you want to do is buy a scanner you can’t use.
- Ease of use. Car codes can be confusing, especially if you aren’t used to the complex nature of automobiles. However, many scanners were designed with the inexperienced user in mind and are very easy to use. While you might be able to get away with a more complex OBD-II scanner, we recommend purchasing one that is known for being easy to use. After all, there is no reason to make things more complicated for you than they need to be.
- Functions. All OBD-II scanners can read the codes your car’s onboard computer provides. However, many scanners can do much more than this. Some can give you real-time updates on your car’s condition, provide you with an I/M readiness check, reset the emissions monitor, and completely delete codes altogether. You might not necessarily need these features if you’re only planning on using your scanner to turn off your check engine light. However, if you enjoy working on your car, you might benefit from purchasing a scanner with these extra features.
- Display. An OBD-II scanner isn’t much use if you can’t read it. Scanners tend to vary a lot when it comes to their displays. Therefore, make sure that whatever scanner you purchase has an easy to read display. Color isn’t necessary but can make things easier to read.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an OBD2 Scanner and how does it work?
An OBD-II scanner stands for Onboard Diagnostic II. It is a standardized system onboard car computers use for self-diagnostics and reporting. In other words, it is a standard “language” cars use to tell mechanics and owners what is wrong with them. Whenever a monitor notices something is wrong, the car’s computer automatically generates a code. An OBD2 scanner can read this code by being plugged into your car, which helps you or a mechanic figure out what is wrong with the vehicle. An OBD2 scanner is different from previous models because it is not specific to each brand of car. In 1996, California regulated and designed a new code for cars that went across all brands. Previously, each brand had used their own specific code, which meant that each brand of car also had its own scanner. Now, however, the code is the same across all brands. This makes it easier to run diagnostics on vehicles because you only need one scanner instead of dozens. An OBD2 scanner is simply a scanner that reads this standardized code instead of an outdated, brand-specific one.
What’s the difference between a basic code reader and a scan tool?
Both of these devices have a similar purpose – they communicate with your car’s computer. However, while both devices can read and clear basic code, a scan tool often has other features as well. Usually, a scan tool can also read more advanced data, playback previous codes, be used to interpret each code, and run diagnostic procedures.
Basic code readers are usually cheaper and easier to use but have very basic functionality. In many cases, it is simply more productive to go ahead and purchase a scan tool that has more advanced options. Even if you aren’t planning on using these advanced features now, you never know when you’re going to need them. Plus, scan tools aren’t usually that much more expensive than a basic code reader. When you compare how many extra features you’re getting, you realize that they really are a great deal.
What does OBD2 stand for?
OBD2 stands for Onboard Diagnostic II. The two simply represents that it reads the newer, post-1996 codes instead of the earlier, brand-specific ones.
What type of OBD is my car?
If your car is U.S. made and has a model year of 1996 or later, an OBD2 scanner is the correct one to get. The same is true if your car is an import from 2001 or later. If your car is not in one of these ranges, you will need to purchase a brand-specific reader in order to check your vehicle. We recommend checking in your car’s owner manual to figure out the correct scanner to purchase.
Other OBD2 Scanners We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other OBD2 scanners. Even though they didn’t make our top 5 best OBD2 scanners list, they’re the best of the rest, and each is still a great option for any car owner. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
Making sure you get your car check once a year is critical. Even if you are a careful driver, you will eventually need to inspect that vehicle of yours. Do not take it to a shop and wait months to get a basic inspection, instead do it yourself with the AUTOPHIX Code Reader!
- Read and clear codes
- Ability to check pending or soft codes
- Compatible with all American cars made after 1996
The Launch Creader 6001 is a little more expensive but offers some very cool features. This device is equipped with 4 hot-keys which allows easy access to multiple functions and much more!
- Supports reading data stream and freeze frame
- O2 sensor test
- On-board monitor test
Finishing off the list of the best basic OBD2 scanners, we are left with the X431. Out of all the scanners, this one definitely offers the most functions at a reasonable price point.
- Supports ALL OBD2 protocols
- Bi-directional special test
- Designed for the DIY users
Not only is this one of the smallest hand-held scanners, but it is also easy to use! This mighty little scanner packs a huge punch all for a very affordable price.
- Retrieves VIN number (vehicle identification number)
- Displays the meaning of over 3000 generic codes
- Weighs 8 ounces
Have you been looking for a cheap all around good OBD2 code reader? Well, look no further! This basic code reader is not only affordable but supports all American vehicles made after 1996.
- Reads your (DTC) Diagnostic Trouble Code for identification.
- Turns off check engine light (MIL)
- Will not work with 2007 Chevy Silverado
This scanner offers many similar features as many of the others on this list but is sold at a lower price. If money is an issue, check out the TD300.
- Works on most 1996 US-based, EU-based and Asian-based vehicles
- Has an Emission Monitor
- Turns off check engine light
Are you the kind of person who likes to fix cars by yourself? Well, this OBD2 scanner is perfect for you! This affordable scanner helps troubleshoot engine codes and diagnose Check Engine light, so you can fix it by yourself.
- Read & clear generic fault codes
- 4 inch large TFT display
- No batteries needed
Yes, this scanner does have a cool name. Yes, it does perform all the functions you would need from a professional scanner, but I think what will sell you on this product is the beautiful all black design.
- OBD2 & CAN compatible
- Supports all 10 OBDII test modes
- Can scan more than 95% domestic old vehicles for view live data (in text/graphic format)
Looking for a multi-language OBD2 scanner that offers more than all the other scanners on this list? Then you have come to the right place! While this scanner is kind of pricey, you are getting what you pay for.
- Smart AutoVIN
- Cloud-based MaxiFix
- Shop manager functions
Are looking for an OBD2 scanner that includes ABS/SRS diagnostics? Well the Foxwell NT630 has just that, not to mention it also comes with a 4.3” TFT screen.
- Reads ABS/SRS
- Supports all 10 OBD2 codes
- Read ECU information
This guy right here is an advanced version of the CRP Touch Pro. How is it more advanced? Let’s take a look at the three key features and find out.
- Retrieve live data from ALL systems within 1 minute
- EPB/SAS/DPF/BMS/IMMO and injector reset Service
- Delete Stored faulty memories
Tablet design, big screen, professional, easy to use, scans transmission, the list goes on and on and on. With that said, take a look at this neat scan tool. You might just buy it.
- Scans transmission
- Read and clear Engine Transmission ABS Airbag codes for 43 vehicles
Derived from the Launch X431 platform, this device works on ALL available electronic systems. One of the unique features is that the Launch CRP Touch Pro is based on an Android operating system.
- Android-based operating system
- 76-OEM system code scanner
To start off the professional scanners we have the TryAce OBD2 Scanner. This scanner can perform more functions and give you an easy to read, clear diagnostic for your vehicle.
- Print data to PC
- Red, yellow and green lights for emission testing
- Lifetime software update
Don’t want to mess with the big bulky plug-in scanners and want something a little more practical? This simplistic Bluetooth scanner gives you just that while offering everything you need to diagnose codes.
- Check engine light diagnosis
- Get alerts for maintenance and oil changes
- Does NOT detect airbag, TPMS, or ABS
This is one of the cheapest scanners you can find anywhere! Plus it also one of the highest rated scanners to date. Enough said.
- Read & clear trouble codes
- Compatible APP system
- Real-time engine sensor data
This right here is one of the highest rated Bluetooth scanners on the market. It won’t break the bank either; you definitely have to check this one out!
- Trusted by mechanics
- Developed by professional engineers
- Has all the capabilities of an expensive hand-held tool
What can the Spiffy Blue do for you? I’m glad you asked. This diagnostic scanner will do almost anything you need to figure out why that car of yours is throwing a code. Plus, it identifies recall alerts!
- Identifies recall alerts
- Monitors multiple vehicles
- Diagnose check engine lights
Not everyone can afford an expensive Bluetooth scanner, so take a look at this little guy! It turns your iPhone, Android phone/tablet into a diagnostic scan tool, all for one low price.
- Universal vehicle compatibility
- Better connection than WiFi
- Does not read maintenance required light or oil light
Save your battery life with this tool. It offers an auto sleep/wake function that reduces power consumption & is compatible with almost any Bluetooth low energy device (BLE).
- Compatible with most cars within the last 20 years
- Real-time ECU sensor data
- Easy fitment