Complete Buying Guide For The Best OBD2 Scanners

Have you ever been stuck with a check engine light?

They can be confusing and frustrating because they don’t actually give you any information.

All they tell you is that something is wrong. You know you need an OBD2 scanner to read the code, but shopping for a scanner can be just as confusing.

There are inexpensive handheld devices, pricey professional equipment, and all kinds of options in between.

Which one is right for you?

Today I’m going to show you how to buy the best OBD2 scanner/code reader online that meets your needs.

But First, take a look at 3 most prominent on our list here:

(Including 1 vehicle owner code reader, 1 DIY scanner, and 1 Professional diagnostic scan tool)

bafx products
Best Code Reader:
BAFX Bluetooth OBDII Scanner for Android
bluedirver
Best DIY Scanner:
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android
Autel MS908P
Best Professional Diagnostic Scan Tool:
Autel Maxisys Pro MS908P Automotive Diagnostic Scanner
Customer Rating (4.2 / 5) (4.4 / 5) (4.4 / 5)
Priceinnova 3100j pricebluedriver priceAutel ML619 price
ProsBAFX Bluetooth Scan Tool can display more than 3,000 error codes.It offers ABS, Airbag, Transmission; Mode 6; Live data, etc.Excellent solutions for ECU programming and Specialized Automotive Diagnosing.
ConsNo support is provided for iOS devices.It doesn’t support the Windows phone.ECU programming is for BMW and Mercedes only;
Slow proccess sometimes.
Bottom LineBafx Products 34t5 is the best bluetooth OBD2 code reader for car owners who want to turn off the Check Engine Light.It is an excellent tool for DIY car mechanics and comes at a relatively cheap price.Autel MaxiSys Pro MS908P is the best automotive diagnostic tool for mechanic shops.

Buyer’s Guide: How to choose the best car diagnostic tool?

The INFOGRAPHIC below is a simple guide that tells you things to consider when picking an OBDII scanner.

[Note: Click on image to view the full version]

choose a best automotive diagnostic scanner inforgraphic
INFOGRAPHIC: How To Choose The Best Car Diagnostic Scanner?

Bonus: KARFANS K120 Universal OBD2 Scanner with Battery Monitor Review

Here’s my take on the OBD2 scan tool buying guide from the infographic:

Types of OBDII Scanners

Basic Code Reader

The first thing you need to do is narrow down what type of scanner you need.

Basically, there are three different categories of OBDII scanners. There are basic code readers, DIY scanners, and professional equipment.

Basic code readers are the least expensive scanners.

They’re the ones you can find at any auto parts store. You plug them into the diagnostic port of your car and they read any Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) that come up.

Most of these basic code readers just tell you the code, but not what it means.

The easiest way to figure out what the code actually means is to just look it up online.

Best Code Reader: BAFX Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner

BAFX OBD2 Bluetooth Adapter review
BAFX Products 34t5 OBD2 Bluetooth Adapter for Android Devices
(4.4 / 5)
Work on all OBD2 vehicles model 1996 and newer, include J1850 and CAN protocols. Bafx Products 34t5 is the best bluetooth obd2 scanner for Android.

Bonus: BAFX Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Full Review

DIY scanner

These are more advanced than basic code readers.

Not only do they read DTC’s, but also tell you what they mean plus a lot more. For a little more money, you get a lot more features.

A lot of these can connect to your mobile device via Bluetooth or Wifi.

They can tell you what’s going on in your car like MPG, ABS and SRS info, and more information that your car might not tell you. Some of them even offer graphing capabilities.

DIY scanners offer a lot of bang for the buck.

Best DIY Scanner: BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool

BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool review
BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool
(4.4 / 5)
The BlueDriver Professional Scan Tool does everything you’d expect an OBD-II scanner to do.

Bonus: BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBDII Scan Tool Full Review 

Professional Diagnostic Tool

If you need something really serious you can get professional equipment.

They are expensive tablet sized machines that tell you absolutely everything about what’s going on in your vehicle.

Some of them even work on heavy-duty commercial trucks.

These are the ways to go if you operate a shop and work on many different types of vehicles on a regular basis.

Best Professional Diagnostic Tool: Autel Maxisys Pro MS908P

Autel MaxiSys Pro MS908P
Autel MaxiSys Pro MS908P
(4.3 / 5)
Autel MaxiSys Pro MS908P is the best quality scanner for mechanic shops.

Bonus: Autel Maxisys Pro MS908P Full Review

What Kind of OBD2 Scanner Do I Need?

It’s easy to determine what type of obd2 scan tool is right for you once you figure out your needs.

If you just need something that will tell you what your check engine light is saying, save some money and get a basic code reader.

Don’t bother paying for extra features if you’re never going to use them.

If you’re an enthusiast who wants to know a little bit more info about your car on top of reading DTC’s, I recommend a DIY scanner.

I personally really like these because of the excellent value.

A lot of them come in under the $100 mark with a ton of features. Connectivity to my mobile devices is a must for me. I love the slick, easy to use mobile apps that a lot of these OBDII scanners come with.

They make car diagnostics fun!

Reference: In my opinion, BlueDriver OBD2 Bluetooth is the best DIY scanner. If I had to pick one, it would be the BlueDriver. The whole package makes for an outstanding value.

As for the professional gear, I’d really only recommend something like that for work.

If you have your own shop and need OEM level diagnostics or you’re working on commercial trucks, by all means, get some serious professional equipment.

If you’re just a regular gearhead like me, it’s simply not worth the money.

How to Find the Best OBD2 Scanner?

There are a lot of resources online that can help you shop for the right scanner and you’ve got one right here! Check out our other articles here on this site for reviews of specific scanners and tips on which ones are the best.

I highly recommend reading our best OBD2 scanner reviews & comparison 2018 below for an in-depth look at some of our favorite diagnostic tools on the market right now.

However, we’re not the only resource for good information on automotive diagnostic tools.

Eric the Car Guy and his friend ScannerDanner have a great video going over what you need in a scanner and what to look for when shopping for the right one.

A good old-fashioned way to get recommendations for quality scanners is to ask someone who knows.

Do you have a mechanic that you trust and visit regularly? Ask what he uses or recommends.

Is there a certain parts store that you frequent? Do the people working there know you by name? Ask which automotive scan tools they use and what they think would be good for you.

The professionals you trust will often point you in the right direction.

The Bottom Line

The market is so saturated with different kinds of scanners. Shopping for them can make your head spin!

Narrowing down what you actually need the equipment for is the first step to finding the right one for you.

Ask yourself what features you want and need.

  • Do you just need something that will simply read and clear codes?
  • Do you want the scanner to tell you what the codes mean?
  • Would you rather have corded or wireless?
  • Do you need to save or graph the data you collect?
  • Will the scanner be used for your business?
  • Do you need to diagnose ABS or SRS?
  • What is your budget?

Simply asking these kinds of questions will quickly narrow down the crowded field of products to choose from.

Our goal is to inform you and help you make the right purchase.

Now!! Take a look at the facts, take a look at our opinions, and buy the best obd2 scanner that’s right for you!

Bonus: Best Actron Scanners / Code Readers Review 2018

Leave a quick comment below. I’ll be around today to reply to comments and answer questions.

References:

  1. Choosing a scan tool that’s right for you – aa1car.com
  2. Shopping Tips for Selecting an OBDII compatible scantool – obdii.com
  3. How to choose a CODE READER – alpha-bid.com
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On-board_diagnostics
  5. https://www3.epa.gov/obd/index.htm
  6. http://www.lemurmonitors.com
  7. http://www.bafxpro.com
  8. https://www.innova.com
  9. http://www.autel.com
  10. https://www.scantool.net