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Best OBD2 Scanner for 2018 – Buyer’s Guide

There are few things in this world that are more annoying than when the “check engine” light pops up on the dashboard of your car. Not only is your engine running into problems, but you don’t even know what problems it’s running into.

For those that are less inclined in the mechanics of an automobile, this can pose a real conundrum. In most cases, it results in you having to bring your car into a mechanic just to figure out what the problem is. Obviously, this can be a waste of both time and money.

Best OBD2 Scanner 2018

However, there is a device that will allow you to find the source of your “check engine” woes. This device is an OBD2 car scanner. There are quite a few OBD2 scanners currently on the market, and you want to make sure that you choose one that’s of high quality.

ModelAirbag
/SRS
Erase
Codes
Live
Data
Freeze
Frame
 
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional
(Editor’s Choice)
YesYesYesYes Check Price
Autel MaxiCOM MK808
(Editor’s Choice)
YesYesYesYes Check Price
Innova 3100j CanOBD2 Diagnostic Tool
YesYesYesYes Check Price
ScanTool OBDLink MX
YesYesYesN/A Check Price
Actron CP9680
YesYesYesYes Check Price
Autel AL619 AutoLinkYesYesYesYes Check Price
Kiwitata OBD2 Scan ToolNoYesYesYes Check Price
Launch X431 OBD2YesYesYesN/A Check Price
Topdon ABS/SRS CAN OBD2YesYesYesYes Check Price
Foxwell NT630YesYesYesN/A Check Price
PowerLead Cadt PL-OM580N/AYesYesYes Check Price

1. BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional – Best Smartphone-based OBD2 Car Scanner for iPhone and Android

The BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional is a unique OBD2 car scanner in that it works as a smartphone app. When purchasing this device, you receive both a physical sensor and its included app. It’s licensed and certified for both Apple and Android devices, and can be used anywhere as long as you have it and your phone in your possession.

Simply The Best for Smartphones

The BlueDriver works by connecting to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Once it has been connected to a smartphone, the sensor can simply be plugged into your car’s OBD2 input port. As it gauges different readings, from ABS, to airbags, and more, it transfers the data directly to your phone. This allows for interactive data mapping and enhanced data storage capabilities. The included app also contains a huge database which defines given codes, and even provides fixes for the particular make of your automobile.

Overall

This is a great OBD2 scanner for personal use. While it could conceivably be used by professional mechanics, it’s more designed for use by individual car owners who want troubleshoot problems with their cars when they occur. It doesn’t record as many vehicle metrics as professional-grade scanners, but works exceptionally well as a portable OBD2 scanner to have on hand.

BlueDriver OBD2 In-car Video

Pros
  • As portable as they come
  • Very user-friendly
  • Offers superb data storage capabilities
Cons
  • Records a limited number of vehicle metrics
  • Doesn’t work well with non-American vehicles

2. Autel MaxiCOM MK808 – Best Value (HUGE) Professional OBD2 Scanner

Autel MaxiCOM MK808 is a professional diagnostic and scan tool. The MK808 has a giant touch screen, rubber handles. Up on the top you got a USB connector for charging and data transfer between your computer. You have the SD card slot, the OBD2 cable plug, a USB port for hooking this up to a printer, and the power button. On the back, you have a stand.

Great Screen, Lots of Functions

When you first turn it on and unlock it you’ll see that it’s in its diagnostic mode. However, this is a tablet, so you can use the quick launch toolbar at the bottom to get yourself into the tablet mode. You’ve got internet, PDF, calculator, clock, picture, and Autel specific apps. This thing has wireless internet so you can on there and look up information about cars etc. You may check all the functions at official manual here.

MaxiCOM apps

First of all you have diagnostics where you have your regular scanning for check engine lights, and all your brand specific scanning abilities all in one place. You can separate by US domestic brands, European brands, Asian brands, and you can also search to find your brand.

Really awesome feature right is the VIN auto detect. You can automatically detect which car you’re connected to, or you can manually input the VIN and all the car’s information will come up.

Then, in the service menu you have all of these service options to service: the oil reset light, electronic parking brake, tire pressure monitoring system, battery monitoring system, brake bleed, diesel particulate filter, immobilizer keys, injectors, steering angle sensor, electronic suspension systems, throttles, windows, doors and roof, seats, odometer, language change, headlamps.

MaxiFix

MaxiFix is an online troubleshooter database, which provides you with a common diagnostic trouble codes database for most vehicles, and it’s also a forum allowing technicians to network with other MaxiCOM users, and it gives you a vast database of repair and diagnostic tips, along with proven filed fixes.

Data Transmission

Connect to your vehicle, select it from menu, and now you can see all the modules that your vehicle will have in it. Go into the transmission control module, and you could see the different information that is read by the different sensors transmission, or whatever car you have’s transmission. So, in other words, if your car has the module, and if it has a sensor, then you can see the info that the sensor reads.

Pros
  • Simply the best for it’s price
  • Displays values and sensor data live
  • Durable case with rubber handles
  • Easy analysis with great graphic display
  • Great list of supported models
Cons
  • VIN recognition isn’t 100%
  • Key coding seems to support only support BMW and Mercedes models

3. Innova 3100j CanOBD2 Diagnostic Tool – Best Overall OBD2 Car Scanner

To put it simply, the Innova 3100j CanOBD2 is the best OBD2 car scanner currently on the market. It’s designed to quickly find the reason for a “check engine” light in any car made from 1996 to the present. In addition to this, it’s also capable of quickly reading and erasing unnecessary ABS and SRS codes. To check your vehicle’s charging system, it can also survey the performance of your battery and alternator.

Great Screen

With a brightly-lit, easy-to-read screen, this Innova scar scanner displays a great deal of information at once. A Freeze Frame function allows you to gauge your vehicle’s fuel trim, coolant temperature, and other important readings. This function also tells you when exactly a “check engine” light first turned on. It should, however, be noted that this scanner comes with no code documentation. This means that you must find other resources to determine what exactly your code readout means.

Overall

That being said, if you’ve got internet access or a great deal of experience working with cars, deciphering your OBD2’s codes shouldn’t be difficult. The Innova 3100j gives you as much information as any OBD2 scanner is going to give you. You just need to understand how exactly that information should be processed. All in all, whether you’re trying to work on your vehicle by yourself, or whether you’re a professional, this is a terrific OBD2 car scanner to have on hand.

Pros
  • Scans a wide range of problems
  • Simple-to-use screen and interface
  • Excellent customer support
Cons
  • Doesn’t come with any code documentation
  • A little on the expensive side

4. ScanTool 426101 – Best Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner for Windows

The ScanTool 426101 is much like the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional in that it operates by syncing up with a smartphone. However, unlike the BlueDriver, the ScanTool 426101 is not compatible with Apple operating systems. What it is compatible with is Android and Windows operating systems. By syncing up with a tablet, computer, or smartphone, the ScanTool sensor transforms your device into a full-functioning OBD2 car scanner.

Always Plugged

One of the ScanTool’s nice features is that you can leave its sensor plugged into your car’s OBD2 input port at all times. This will not drain the car’s battery or have any ill effects. Not only will the ScanTool find the fault of “check engine” lights, ABS lights, and airbag lights, it will also provide you with a number of potential fixes for your car’s problem. With the ability to graph data in real time, and to store loads of data in its included app, it’s an endlessly valuable tool to have on hand.

Because it’s available for a fairly reasonable price, the ScanTool 426101 is a great car scanner for those who would just like something to have on hand in case of emergencies. It can, of course, be used by professionals, but it more suited toward DIY’ers and casual car owners.

OBDLink MX in Action

Pros
  • Very portable
  • Easy-to-operate user interface
  • Graphs data in real time
Cons
  • Inconsistent bluetooth connection
  • Records a limited number of vehicle metrics

5. Actron CP9680 – Best OBD2 Car Scanner for DIY’ers

The Actron CP9680 is a highly portable OBD2 car scanner, measuring in at 10.9 inches x 7.7 inches x 2 inches and weighing in at 1.2 pounds. Its large, color LCD screen lights up brightly and produces as clear of a picture as you’re going to find with an OBD2 scanner. As far as compatibility goes, it works with all OBD2 and CAN vehicles from 1996 to the present as well as OBD2-compliant vehicles from 1994 and 1995.

Technically Advanced

When it comes to technical performance, the CP9680 works exceptionally well. Its CodeConnect feature not only gives you the status of many vehicle metrics, but also suggests fixes to suit the particular make and model of your vehicle. In addition to finding the fault of “check engine” lights, it also works to find the fault of ABS and airbag lights. With record, playback, and live data graphing capabilities, it’s highly-intuitive and user-friendly. It is, however, limited as to what make and model of vehicles it will work with. Specific research is recommended so that you can be sure it will work with your vehicle.

All things considered, the CP9680 is a great OBD2 car scanner for users of all experience levels. It measures enough vehicle metrics to be used by professional mechanics and is user-friendly enough to be used by novices. You just want to make sure that it will work with your vehicle before you go laying any money down.
Pros
  • User-friendly
  • Measures a great many vehicle metrics
  • Highly portable
Cons
  • Physical construction is inconsistent
  • Not compatible with all vehicle makes and models

6. Autel AL619 AutoLink – Best User Interface

The Autel AL619 AutoLink features a brightly-lit and easy-to-read LED screen. With an extremely well-organized user interface, it’s beyond easy to navigate whether you’re checking for OBD2, ABS, or otherwise. It comes with a carrying case, making it very portable and easy to store away. Constructed with tough rubber and plastic, it can withstand a great deal of wear and tear.

By plugging the Autel AL619 into your OBD2 input port, you will quickly receive both manufacturer-specific and generic codes. It will also explain exactly what these codes mean. Like many modern OBD2 car scanners, it possesses the ability to read, graph, and store all collected code data. For future use, it can be updated with necessary internet updates. This will keep it working at the best of its abilities at all times.

Great UI

While the Autel AL619 isn’t designed to be used by professional mechanics, it certainly could be. However, it’s more appropriate for DIY’ers and casual car owners. It’s brightly-lit screen and incredible user interface make it a great OBD2 car scanner for those who need to be walked slowly through the process. It doesn’t record the ultimate number of vehicle metrics but records more than enough to do the job.
Pros
  • Works on American and European cars
  • Excellent user interface
  • Reads, graphs, and stores data seamlessly
Cons
  • Tracks a limited number of vehicle metrics
  • Not professional grade

7. Kiwitata OBD2 Scan Tool – Best Cheap OBD2 Car Scanner

If you’re looking for a budget OBD2 car scanner, you might consider this one by Kiwitata. While its user interface is lacking, it still does a tremendous job of collecting and deciphering OBD2 codes. However, it should be noted that it doesn’t collect ABS and airbag codes. It’s only capable of collecting basic codes such as fuel system, misfire, a/c system, and the like. If you’re looking for a scanner that collects ABS and airbag codes, you’re going to have to spend a little more money.

Cheap and Easy to Use

Of course, for what the Kiwitata does scan for, it does a tremendous job of processing. It features live graphing of code data as well as superb data storage capabilities. Not only will it deliver the malfunctioning code, it will also describe exactly what that code means. It also possesses the ability to read Freeze Frame data. This means that it will show you exactly when your “check engine” light first turned on.

Whether you own an American, European, or Asian-made car, the Kiwitata OBD2 Scan Tool will accommodate you. Though it’s not a top-of-the-line tool designed for professional mechanics, it is a great device to have on hand if you’re a casual car owner. While its user interface isn’t as sophisticated as the user interfaces of many car scanners, it still does the job. And for its price, it’s a solid, reliable buy.
Pros
  • Graphs and stores data excellently
  • Very affordable
  • As portable as they come
Cons
  • Substandard user interface
  • Records a limited number of vehicle metrics

8. Launch X431 OBD2 – Best Portable OBD2 Car Scanner

The Launch X431 is a very easy-to-handle OBD2 car scanner that’s shaped something like a gaming controller. Sporting a colored and brightly-lit LED screen, it’s easy on the eyes and easy on the mind. Its user interface is very simple and can be updated over time with the use of most Windows operating systems. Measuring in at 10.2 inches x 2.8 inches x 8.3 inches and weighing in at 1.1 pounds, it’s as portable as any OBD2 car scanner you’re going to find.

Like a PRO

If you’re the owner of an American, European, or Asian car, the Launch X431 will accommodate you. While professional mechanics can definitely use this scanner, it’s more equipped for DIY’ers and casual car owners.

The Launch X431 is capable of reading codes from four different types of systems, including ENG, ABS, SRS, and SAS. It supports real-time data graphing and also does a superb job of storing collected data. This is great for future manual documentation purposes. Providing five different languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and French, it’s appropriate for all different types of speakers.
Pros
  • As portable as they come
  • Superb User interface
  • Supports real-time data graphing and storage
Cons
  • A little expensive
  • Has some lagging problems

9. Topdon ABS/SRS CAN OBD2 – Most Versatile OBD2 Car Scanner

The Topdon OBD2 car scanner measures in at 9.8 inches x 5.4 inches x 3.8 inches and weighs in at 1.5 pounds. This makes it, not only portable, but easy to store away in your car. It possesses a multilingual menu, allowing you to use it in English, Spanish, or French. Its screen is adequate, but not remarkable. While it’s certainly readable, there are other car scanners with much more legible and user-intuitive screens.

Great in Numbers

Where the Topdon truly excels is in its ability to read a great number of vehicle metrics. It can collect, diagnose, and clear code data from several different systems, including OBDII, ABS, SRS, CAN, and EOBD. It’s also capable of storing data, playing back data, and graphing code data in real time.

Due to its ability to diagnose many different types of systems, it could definitely be used by a professional mechanic. Though it’s a little more difficult to operate than some car scanners, it could also certainly be used by DIY’ers and casual car owners. Overall, it’s a versatile, and fairly user-friendly OBD2 scanner.
Pros
  • Works with a number of different car systems
  • Portable
  • Nearly professional grade
Cons
  • Its screen isn’t the easiest to read
  • Its user interface isn’t as intuitive as some

10. Foxwell NT630 – Most User-friendly OBD2 Car Scanner for the Money

The Foxwell NT630 sports a brightly-lit and easy-to-read LED screen. Equipped with easily-accessible buttons and an extremely simple user interface, it is beyond easy to use. It’s made out of tough, durable plastic, and is lined absorbent rubber. This will protect it in the case of any high falls. Measuring in at 7.9 inches x 1.6 inches x 3.9 inches and weighing in at 3.1 pounds, it’s ridiculously compact and easy to store.

Still a Solid Choice

In addition to finding the fault of simple “check engine” lights, the NT630 also finds the fault of ABS and airbag lights. Once you are engaged in this scanner’s interface, you can clear all unnecessary warning lights. In addition, this scanner can store and graph code data in real time. It will provide you with a deciphered reading of any malfunction code it comes across. Available in a ridiculous number of languages, including English, Spanish, and French, it accommodates users of all origins.

While this scanner could conceivably be used by a professional mechanic, it’s more designed for DIY’ers and casual car owners. Its user-friendly interface makes it perfect for folks who need a helping hand in doing something they’ve never done before. Considering its relatively cheap price, it really a bargain.
Pros
  • Superb user interface
  • Stores and graphs data for ultimate analysis
  • Compact and portable
Cons
  • Not professional grade
  • Doesn’t work with all makes and models

11. PowerLead Cadt PL-OM580 – Most Versatile OBD2 Car Scanner for the Money

The PowerLead Cadt PL-OM580 provides a great deal of versatility at a downright reasonable price. It can connect to a number of different vehicle systems, including OBDII, CAN, EOBD, and more. Physically, it’s made out of tough plastic which can withstand a great deal of wear and tear. Measuring in at 7.7 inches x 5.2 inches x 3 inches, it’s compact, portable, and ridiculously easy to store away.

User-Friendly and Functional

While its screen isn’t as nice as some others, its user interface is superbly easy to operate. It can collect, store, and display data in real time. This allows for ultimate analysis and decision making. It also possesses the ability to find freeze frame data. This allows you to find out exactly when your “check engine” light first turned on. Capable of being used in several different languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, and German, it’s appropriate for native speakers of all types.

At its relatively bargain price, the PL-OM580 is designed more for DIY’ers and casual car owners than for professional mechanics. It could be used by professionals, but might lack in areas such total metrics recorded. In any case, if you’re looking for a versatile car scanner that accommodates most of your car’s metrics, this is a great one to choose. It’s a nice device to have on hand for emergencies and regular vehicle maintenance.
Pros
  • Extremely versatile
  • Very user-friendly
  • Ridiculously compact and portable
Cons
  • Doesn’t possess as nice of a screen as some OBD2 car scanners
  • Not compatible with all makes and models

Things to consider when purchasing an OBD2 Car Scanner – Buyer’s Guide

If you’ve never used an OBD2 car scanner before, you might have no idea what exactly you should be looking for when purchasing one. In order to make a quality purchase, there are a couple of things you must consider.

  • Variety of readings – The fact of the matter is that not all car scanners are capable of scanning the same metrics. While some will give you information on just about everything you would ever want to know, others are limited when it comes to things like “time of malfunction” and coolant level.
  • Portability – OBD2 car scanners come in all different shapes and sizes. Make sure that scanner you purchase can be picked up and moved around with ease.
  • Data Storage – The best OBD2 scanners come with storage capabilities. This ensures that you can view all of your readings long after they’ve been taken; a valuable feature to have.
  • Special features – From automatic decoding features, to WiFi connection, and more, OBD2 scanners come with a variety of special features. While these features aren’t absolutely necessary, they do serve to make your car scanner all that much more valuable.

How do you use an OBD2 car scanner?

If you’ve never used an OBD2 car scanner before, you probably have no idea what you’re doing. OBD2 scanners work by plugging into the OBD2 connector located beneath your dashboard. Once you have plugged the scanner in, you turn the key in your ignition until your car is on, but without fully starting your car’s engine.

After doing this, your scanner will ask for you to enter some information. Typical information needed includes your car’s VIN number, its make, its model, and the type of engine it possesses. Once this is done, you simply follow your particular scanner’s instructions in order to attain readings for your desired metrics.

Benefits of owning an OBD2 car scanner

While tons of car owners certainly get by without owning an OBD2 car scanner, there are many great benefits that come with owning one. Probably the most important benefit is that car owner’s can find the source of “check engine” lights without having to take their car’s into a mechanic.

An OBD2 car scanner is also a great tool to have on hand for routine maintenance purposes. Being able to catch problems early in their existence will limit the amount of damage they’re able to do over time. While there is more than one way to get readings of your car’s OBD2, an OBD2 car scanner is the most user-friendly way you’re going to find.

Conclusion

You don’t want to have to take your car to an auto shop every time a “check engine” light pops up on your dash. Not only could it be a waste of time, it could also be a waste of time. By purchasing an OBD2 car scanner, you can perform your own checkups on your car. This gives you the liberty to decide whether or not you want to spend money on repairs. There’s no reason to leave yourself at the mercy and word of auto mechanics. Invest in an OBD2 scanner. Educate yourself on your vehicle’s well-being. Make informed decisions. Not only will you save time and money. You’ll learn a thing or two as well.

Derek Chase :Derek Chase is a 28-year-old car enthusiast. Currently working at a major startup company. Experienced in electronics and security systems. Tears down, repair, and rebuild power systems, exhaust systems, suspension, sound systems etc. of own cars. Read More.