10 Best Affordable Bi-directional Scan Tools [Review & Comparison]

If you’re looking to buy a good bi-directional scan tool that can let you perform active tests such as:

  • turn the radiator fan on/off, 
  • adjust the throttle, 
  • open/close purge/vent solenoid, 
  • turn on/off the sound horn, 
  • test door lock, 
  • test shift solenoid, 
  • etc.

This post is for you.

In fact, I’ve tested 63 different bi-directional scan tools made by these 8 brands before writing this product review:

  1. ANCEL
  2. AUTEL
  3. FOXWELL
  4. INNOVA
  5. LAUNCH
  6. THINKCAR
  7. TOPDON
  8. XTOOL

It means that you will find, in this post, practical examples where I used the scanners on different cars and trucks.

From my first-hand experiences, here are the recommendations:

  1. If you are a professional looking for quality and reliability, buy LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO or LAUNCH X431 V PRO.
  2. If you’re a home mechanic, consider XTOOL D8 or ANCEL V6 PRO+.
  3. If you want to buy the cheapest bi-directional scan tool, go for Thinkdiag or INNOVA 5610. 

But,

Let’s get started with the comparison of the best bi-directional scan tools for 2022:

Scan Tool ModelFree Update &
Annual Update Fee
Recommended UserAction
Editor's Pick
launch x431 v+ pro

LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: ~$500
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Also Great
launch x431 v pro

LAUNCH X431 V PRO
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: ~$400
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Top Rated
topdon phoenix lite 2

TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: $430
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Best for ECU Coding
autel ms906bt

AUTEL MS906BT
Free Update: 1 year

Update free: $695

ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Affordable Pick
xtool d8

XTOOL D8
Free Update: 3 years

Update free: $199

ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Affordable
autel mp808k

AUTEL MP808K
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: $349.5
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Affordable
ancel v6 pro+

ANCEL V6 PRO+
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: $149
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Cheapest Pick
thinkdiag

Thinkdiag
Free Update: 1 year

Update free: $129
Home MechanicCheck Price

Read review
Budget Pick
innova 5610

INNOVA 5610
Free Update: Lifetime

Update free: $0
Home MechanicCheck Price

Read review
Best Advanced functions
autel mk808bt

AUTEL MK808BT
Free Update: 1 year

Update free: $150
Home MechanicCheck Price

Read review

Table of contents:

Group 1: Best Bi-directional Scan Tools for Professionals

Group 2: Best Affordable Bi-directional Scan Tools for Professionals

Group 3: Best Affordable Bi-directional Scan Tools for Home Mechanics

Best Bi-directional Scan Tools for Professionals

Below are the 4 best choices for professionals:

Scan Tool ModelFree Update &
Annual Update Fee
Recommended UserAction
Editor's Pick 1
launch x431 v+ pro

LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: ~$500
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Editor's Pick 2
launch x431 v pro

LAUNCH X431 V PRO
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: ~$400
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Top Rated
topdon phoenix lite 2

TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2
Free Update: 2 years

Update free: $430
ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review
Best for ECU Coding
autel ms906bt

AUTEL MS906BT
Free Update: 1 year

Update free: $695

ProfessionalCheck Price

Read review

#1. LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO

Best Overall Bidirectional Scan Tool for Professional

  • Scanner type: Bi-directional scan tool
  • Fit for: Experienced enthusiasts, Car mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Car, Light truck, HD truck (optional)
    (Gasoline/Diesel)
  • Connection type:
  • Work on: OBD2/OBD1 vehicles, HD-OBD trucks (optional)
  • Price range: Under $1,500

4.5

Bi-directional Control

4.8

AutoVIN

4.0

Vehicle Coverage

4.6

Value for money

4.5

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Work with OBD1 & OBD2 gasoline/diesel cars/light trucks
Work with heavy-duty trucks/equipment (optional HD module)
Try and fix it yourself
Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform advanced service functions
Perform bi-directional controls (active tests)
Code a car’s ECU

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Program a car’s ECU

Pros

  • Powerful bi-directional control on all systems
  • Perform 35+ advanced service functions
  • Do ECU online and offline coding
  • Large screen 
  • 2-year free update
  • Guided function of VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat

Cons

  • High annual subscription fee
  • AutoVIN troubles

What Makes Me Like LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO?

I’ve used it on about 20 different vehicles in the first week, and each time it performed flawlessly. 

Below are my favorite things about this scan tool:

1. The most powerful bi-directional scan tool today

It means that with LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO you can send commands into any ECU in any car thanks to bi-directional controls.

There are many active tests you can perform on your vehicles to quickly diagnose which part is faulty. 

Launch X431 V+'S bidirectional controls
You can perform various active tests with Launch X431 V+ Pro Elite, like testing transmission shift solenoid, door lock or turning on/off the radiator fan, etc.

These actuation tests are available for each system, such as:

  • engine, 
  • gearbox, 
  • gear shift module, 
  • fuel pump, 
  • drive system, and 
  • A/C. 

For example, you can: 

  • turn the radiator fan on/off, 
  • adjust the throttle, 
  • open/close purge/vent solenoid, 
  • turn on/off the sound horn, 
  • test door lock, 
  • test shift solenoid, etc.

Here are the situations I tested the bidirectional controls:

Last week, my client’s 2005 Camry had a P0499 code, which is “EVAP Vent Valve Control Circuit High”. 

Using this function, I could confirm that the EVAP valves had an audible click and the EVAP system would maintain pressure. 

The culprit was most likely a small leak. 

First, I began by checking the simplest parts with active tests. 

It came out that the purge valve wasn’t entirely closing and hence couldn’t hold pressure. 

The solution is to replace the faulty part.

Also, 

I’ve tested shift solenoids for automatic transmission on a 2003 Honda Accord. 

Just choose the AT module and press Actuation Test. 

Then test each solenoid to know if it has an audible click. 

This will help you isolate the solenoid and identify which one is bad.

2. The most diverse service functions

X431 V+ PRO lets you perform more advanced services and special functions than X431 V Pro or any other scanners in today’s list. 

There are 35+ functions for you. 

But the number of available options depends on your vehicle:

  • TPMS Reset, 
  • IMMO, 
  • ABS Bleeding, 
  • Injector Coding, 
  • Gear Learning, 
  • Throttle Adaptation, 
  • Suspension Reset, etc. 

These functions are really essential for mechanics to do daily maintenance at workshops. 

The first vehicle tested and tried it on was a 2007 Chrysler.

After installing a rebuilt transmission for my customer, it required a “Quick Learn.” 

I used LAUNCH X341 V+ PRO to perform this function. 

With the engine running, I followed the prompts and shifted the transmission as instructed while applying the brake. 

The engine revs to a specific RPM, and the transmission relearns within a few seconds

It worked very well and the transmission was properly learned. 

I had previously used several competitors’ scan tools to perform this function, but this one worked best.

Moreover, I even performed a PMI on a Fusion’s electric steering rack and relearned a clutch on a 2018 Ford Focus. 

It worked flawlessly!

3. Advanced ECU Coding
Launch X431 V+'s advanced Ecu coding
ECU coding allows you to turn your car the way you want.

It is equipped with advanced ECU coding functions to:

  • Make a new code and recognize the new actuators after you change them,
  • Improve vehicle performance or access hidden features on your car to disable annoying functions,
  • Match, learn or code the newly replaced ECU.

I used this function to access the headlight control module on one of my customers’ 2020 BMW M2. 

Instead of taking the car to a dealer, you can code your car the way you want

Besides, on some BMWs or Fords, the lights would stay on for a few minutes after shutting the car off. 

With this scanner, I could turn that off without switching the control in the car to AUTO. 

4. Save and email the scan reports

One feature I really like is that you can save and email the scan reports. 

With this thing, you can save and email yourself a full report to study later when sitting at the computer.

What I Dislike?

1. High annual update fee

After the 2-year free update period, you have to pay an annual subscription of ~$500. 

Good news: You can continue using the scan tool without updating.

Bad news: New functions and new vehicle models are not up-to-date.

To me, the software update fee is a little expensive (~$500) for DIY users. 

It would be nice if subscription options were more beneficial to these users (maybe a charge for a single update).

Actually, this fee is more suitable for anyone who owns a small to a mid-sized repair shop.

It is a bit costly for most home users. 

My advice is:

Only pay the update unless you really need it. 

2. VIN identification problems

Another issue I’ve had while using this scanner is the VIN identification. 

Sometimes it won’t automatically detect what type the vehicle is. 

Yet, I only faced it on Lexus, Jeeps, and BMW.

If the AutoVIN fails, another way is to scan the code on the vehicle plate. 

Unfortunately, the camera fails to pick up the VIN 9/10 times, making it irritating. 

Finally, I have to enter the VIN manually.

The scanning rate is a bit slow. 

Personally, I believe it could be much faster.

3. An original LAUNCH printer is needed to print a report

The last thing I do not like about this scan tool is that:

To print out a report directly to a printer, you have to use the original LAUNCH Printer. 

This costs almost as much as the X431 V+ PRO itself. 

It’d be better to save the reports, email them to yourself and print them to any printer (you need to install a separate app like HP Print Service Plugin first).

Vehicle Coverage

LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO supports a wide range of vehicles: 

From OBD1/OBD2 passenger cars to heavy-duty trucks, including FCA and VAG cars.

First, I am very surprised that it has many settings/tests for VAG cars and Ford diesel vehicles. 

I adjusted the air strut levels of a Phaeton and reset PATS on an F350 pickup.

Moreover, I bought a heavy-duty module and tested it on some heavy-duty trucks. 

I’ve tried it out on the few vehicles I own and my neighbor’s 2018 Ford service truck

I did a relative compression test and viewed cylinder contributions inside the Powerstroke ECM. 

It’s nice to have the capability of something that is new.

However, advanced service functions and active tests are not universally compatible

It depends on the specific car models.

So, check the compatibility by visiting the vehicle coverage page before purchasing.

Key Takeaway

LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO is a bang for the buck if you are willing to take the time to learn every feature. 

Not for a beginner DIYer, but the LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO is an excellent bi-directional scan tool for professionals or small to mid-sized shops that need to get many things done!

Its functionality, compared to the cost of the tool, makes it well worth the investment.

Either way, I wouldn’t hesitate to rebuy this. 

Check LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO’s latest price now:

LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO

Rating


#2. LAUNCH X431 V Pro

Best Accurate Bi-directional Scan Tool for Professional

  • Scanner type: Bi-directional scan tool
  • Fit for: Experienced enthusiasts, Car mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck
    (Gasoline/Diesel)
  • Connection type:
  • Work on: OBD2 & OBD1 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $1,000

4.5

Bi-directional Controls

4.6

Battery Charging Time

4.0

Vehicle Coverage

4.5

Value for money

4.7

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Work with OBD1 & OBD2 gasoline/diesel cars/light trucks
Try and fix it yourself
Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform advanced service functions
Perform bi-directional controls (active tests)
Code a car’s ECU

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Work with heavy-duty trucks/equipment
Program a car’s ECU

Pros

  • Accurate bi-directional controls
  • Perform 31+ advanced service functions
  • Do ECU coding
  • 2-year free update
  • Wide range of vehicle coverage

Cons

  • High annual subscription fee
  • Complex registration process
  • Long battery charging time

What Makes Me Like LAUNCH X431 V Pro?

LAUNCH X431 V Pro is a cheaper version of X431 V+ Pro. 

It can offer what X431 V+ Pro does, but with fewer functions and features. 

If you want to know the key differences between X431 V PRO and X431 V+ PRO, the details are as follows:

  • LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO supports the guided function of VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat, while X431 V does not.
  • LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO is compatible with LAUNCH X431 heavy-duty modules (purchased separately) and can work on HD trucks. X431 V Pro is incompatible. 
  • The screen size of X431 V+ PRO is 10.1 inches, while V’s is 8 inches. The screen of X431 V+ PRO can display 15 data streams, three more than X431 V Pro.
  • The battery life of X431 V+  PRO’s is 7000mAh which is longer than V PRO’s (5000mAH).
  • LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO’s vehicle coverage is wider.
  • X431 V+ PRO is faster thanks to the 8-Core processor.

Bonus: Full comparison between LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO and X431 V Pro.

If you are a professional but have a tight budget, LAUNCH X431 V PRO does the trick. 

But for speed’s sake, LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO is absolutely a better choice. 

Anyway, I can say that: 

With the price under $1,000, X431 V Pro is worth every penny!

Here are the reasons:

1. Accurate bi-directional control

After receiving this scan tool, I tested its bi-directional controls on different OBD2 vehicles. 

Although not all of them function smoothly, I was pretty surprised at the number of functions I could use on some models.

From 2002 to 2020 vehicles, it’s great to have the ability to control circuits like the IAC and electronic EGR

Also, 

I can control other circuits, such as power windows and door locks, purge solenoids, etc.

In addition, 

LAUNCH X431 V Pro can support many active tests (depending on specific car models), like:

  • transmission solenoids, 
  • engine vacuum pump, 
  • auxiliary water pump, 
  • fuel pump, 
  • fuel injectors, 
  • attenuate the relays across the board, 
  • set the idle, etc.
Launch X431 V's bidirectional control
It’s easy to diagnose your car using bi-directional controls without any helper.

And, of course, bi-directional controls help mechanics like me test individual systems or parts in those systems. 

Once, I did an EVAP test on a 2014 Toyota Highlander

It was nice not to crawl under the vehicle to get to vacuum switching valves

Just give a few clicks on the screen, and the process is simpler than ever. 

Thanks to X431 V Pro, there’s no need to crawl under your car to diagnose things. 

It lets me work efficiently and saves me a lot of time!

2. The advanced functions are reliable but not universal

LAUNCH X431 V Pro allows you to perform up to 31 advanced service functions.

Most of the prominent functions I often use are:

  • DPF Regeneration
  • IMMO Key
  • ABS Bleeding
  • Fuel Injector Coding
  • Camshaft/Crankshaft Sensor Relearn
  • Throttle Adaptation, etc.
Launch X431 V's 31 service functions
Launch X431 V Pro lets you perform over 31 advanced service functions like DPF Regen, IMMO Key, ABS Bleeding, etc.

Yet, those functions are not universally compatible

It will work well, depending on each vehicle. 

For example:

My client’s car is a 2010 Honda Accord 2.4L with automatic trans. 

I recently had to replace a master cylinder in the ABS module, which I couldn’t remove with conventional brake bleeding. 

LAUNCH X431 V PRO could run the ABS motor and independently open up each solenoid to the wheels simultaneously to do a full auto bleed. 

I tried the same feature on a 2007 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 with a 4.0 L automatic trans, but it didn’t bleed the ABS module.

Maybe there will be an update for Tacoma soon.

3. Impressively helpful live data

The number of PIDs available is quite impressive on the cars I tested it on, ranging from 2001 to 2014

The graphing is very nice, and it seems to be responsive while watching sensors working in action. 

You can zoom in and out to see it in more detail while watching live data.

It helped me diagnose a problem with a transmission code when this tool showed me all the data that other cheaper scan tools didn’t show. 

This is how I knew I had to replace my customer’s car ECU.

4. Walk around the vehicle while running diagnostics

One thing I’d like to add is I really like that the LAUNCH uses a Bluetooth connector instead of a cable. 

This makes it very convenient to walk around the vehicle while running diagnostics. 

You can operate away from the car, which is great. 

You can be at the workbench or any location in the vehicle.

Also, it is attached right in the scanner. 

It’s convenient to put it back and never be afraid of losing it anymore.

It’d be better if the scanner came with a kickstand so that I could hang it on the steering wheel for hands-free use.

What I Dislike?

1. High annual subscription fee

My first concern is that the annual subscription fee is a bit high (~$400) after two years of free updates

But I work at a repair shop, so paying a fee each year for newer vehicles is mandatory. 

And the update fee is worth it when you work on customers’ latest cars.

If your work is on your own or family cars, you don’t need to update every year. 

For a recreational user, this is costly. 

I recommend you update it after a couple of years because you can still use the software as it was.

2. Complex registration process

Before using LAUNCH X431 V Pro, you have to go through a registration process if you are a new user. 

It was not easy as I could not see the CAPTCHA input in the scan tool. 

Instead, you can create a new account on LAUNCH’s website and log in on the scanner.

You can check the detailed tutorial in my LAUNCH X431 V Pro in-depth review.

Important note: Always keep your activation code envelope carefully.

3. Long battery charging time

Although the battery is sufficient for long diagnostics, my biggest gripe is the charging time. 

It takes about 4 or 5 hours to charge 100% from around 20%. 

You have to time your diagnostic process. 

Vehicle Compatibility

This scan tool covers most vehicles in the world, both OBD1 & OBD2.

LAUNCH X431 V Pro has 14 special connectors and 12 cables to support more than 150 car brands and 10,000 car models.

It is really convenient when you can work on both OBD1 and OBD2 vehicles in one scanner. 

Especially for anyone owning a mid-sized repair shop, X431 V Pro is a must-try.

Furthermore, LAUNCH X431 V Pro supports AutoAuth for FCA SGW, making it work with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, etc., after 2017.

However, even though this kit includes the OBD1 adapters, the scanner has a limit on OBD1 vehicles it can work. 

For example:

  • On Toyotas, I think the earliest it would connect to is ’90.
  • On Fords, it may have been ’88. 
  • On Chevy, I tried to connect to an ’86 Chevy, but its earliest support was ’91 or ’92. 

Also, it offers minimal bidirectional controls and PIDs on OBD1 vehicles.

However, please note that: 

Not all advanced service functions and bi-directional control is available on all vehicles. 

You should check the compatibility on LAUNCH’s website before buying.

Key Takeaway

LAUNCH X431 V Pro is not as strong as X431 V+ PRO but it has most of the features that a professional or an advanced home mechanic would need.

With great bi-directional control, this scanner is a must-have tool for you.

In addition to active tests, X431 V Pro is a professional scan tool that can offer many service functions.

Check LAUNCH X431 V PRO’s latest price now:

Launch X431 V Pro

Rating


#3. TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2

Top Rated Bi-directional Scan Tool for Professional

  • Scanner type: Bi-directional scan tool
  • Fit for: Experienced enthusiasts, Car/Light truck mechanics
  • Vehicle type: Car/Light truck
    (Gasoline/Diesel)
  • Connection type:
  • Work on: OBD2 vehicles
  • Price range: Under $1,000

4.6

Bi-directional control

4.9

Topology

4.9

Service functions

4.8

Graphing live data

3.9

Buy this scan tool if you want to …

Work with OBD2 gasoline/diesel cars/light trucks
Try and fix it yourself
Read trouble codes of all systems
Perform bidirectional controls (active tests)
 Program a car key
Perform advanced service functions
Code a car’s ECU

DON’T buy it if you want to …

Program a car’s ECU

Pros

  • Great bi-directional control
  • Powerful service functions
  • Useful topology
  • Stable Bluetooth connectivity

Cons

  •  Touchscreen is not that responsive

What Makes Me Like TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2?

TOPDON must be quite new to most of you. But it doesn’t mean they don’t have quality products for professionals.

Honestly, I only knew about the company as well as this TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2 from a friend of mine. 

She was about to buy her husband a new scan tool as a birthday gift

That was the reason she asked me if the Phoenix Lite 2 was good as you know, a “happy husband”, a happy life.

After reading reviews from Amazon, some recommendations from Youtube channels, and it was on sale at that time too, I decided to give it a shot

I thought to myself, if I tested this scan tool and it felt good, then my friend would find the best gift ever for her husband

I also discovered another great bi-directional scan tool for me. It is all good one way or another. 

And luckily, the result turned out to be as good as expected

Here are reasons why I say so.

1. Top-rated bi-directional scan tool

TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2 was first available in May of 2022 but it got 4.8/5 stars (91% are 5 stars) from 60 global ratings after 5 months (figures updated on October 19, 2022).

With excellent bi-directional control, TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2 sets you free from dependence on cable, making it easier to fix cars. 

Like LAUNCH X431 V+ PRO or LAUNCH X431 Pro, TOPDON Phoenix Lite 2 offers Bluetooth connection but at a much more affordable price. 

After connecting the unit to my friend’s husband’s 2009 Chevrolet Spark, I could tell its connection stability is as good as its competitors.

Thanks to that, I could get access to all subsystems and parts of his car via the bi-directional function.

Furthermore, I could also send some commands to Chevy to see if the components are working properly.  

More specifically, I turned on and off some parts such as:

  • fuel injectors, 
  • coolant injectors, 
  • windows, and 
  • windshield wipers. 

And here was the result I got: 

They all followed my commands correctly. 

Since then, I can put my faith in the responsive active test function of this TOPDON scan tool with no doubt.

Also, I used this feature to switch transmission solenoids on and off and listened to their sound. 

In this way, I could tell the solenoids’ condition exactly and save myself some time doing other stuff.

2. Expand your ability to repair cars with 28+ service functions.

I am also impressed by the service functions that this car diagnostic tool offers to users, such as:

  • SAS (Steering Angle Reset)
  • BMS (Battery Matching)
  • Oil (Maintenance Light Reset)
  • ETS (Throttle Matching)
  • Bleeding (ABS Bleeding)
  • Brake (Electronic Park Brake Reset)
  • DPF (DPF Regeneration)
  • Gear (Tooth Learning)
Topdon Phoenix Lite 2's 28 service functions
With more than 28 service functions, you can repair various car problems in your garage.

Thanks to all of these powerful service functions, you can do more than just read & clear DTCs in your cars.

For instance, after replacing the steering angle position sensor or body repair, with the SAS service, you can reset the steering angle to zero

This helps the cars keep running straight afterward.

3. Helpful topology for easier troubleshooting of any car’s problems

In the product description, TOPDON didn’t state the topology function. 

When I found out about this feature, I was wondering why the manufacturer didn’t mention it as it’s good as expected.

The screen for topology mapping will pop up after you scan whole systems in your car.

This map indicates 2 important pieces of information:

  • One is for the relationship between modules available in the car that you plug in. 
  • And the other is for the condition of each system shown by different colors.

There are 3 different colors indicating status of the modules:

  • Green illustrates that the module is normal, meaning it’s still within the ideal parameters.
  • The red color means the module scanned is abnormal for specific reasons.
  • And bear in mind that if you see gray, it’s telling you that the module is not suited to the vehicle you have just s