Are you a DIY looking for a professional OBD2 scanner or a technician finding a professional automotive diagnostic scanner that can provide the best services ranging from OBD2 functions (e.g. MIL reset, O2 sensor test, I/M readiness, etc.), system diagnostics (e.g. ABS, airbag, transmission, etc.), or service functions (e.g. ABS bleeding, bi-directional control, injector coding, key coding, or ECU programming, etc.)?
I’ve got you covered!
But, many are asking “Which is the best match for me and my budget? Do I really need that $1,000 tool – and conversely, will a $100 scanner can do what I need?”
In this article, I will review the top professional car diagnostic tools in the market from 2020 to 2021 and show you how to choose the right one.
Read on to find out the right OBD2 scanner for your specific need and pocket. Choose the group of scan tools you want below and go with me!!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best professional car diagnostic tools comparison chart
- 2 Best cheap OBD2 scanners [for beginners]
- 3 Best Professional OBD2 Scanner [for home mechanics]
- 4 Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner [for pros]
- 5 Best scan tool with ECU programming/coding [for pros]
- 6 Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Software
- 7 Final thoughts
- 8 Automotive Diagnostic Tools Buying Guide
Best professional car diagnostic tools comparison chart
|Autel MK808||$479||9.7/10||Experienced |
|Launch X431 V+||$1,199||9.7/10||Professionals|
|Autel Maxisys Elite||$2,899||8.9/10||Professionals|
*Prices were updated on September 1st, 2021.
Best cheap OBD2 scanners [for beginners]
Price range: $30-$100
Are you new to diagnosing car problems on your own? With universal OBD2 scanners, you can easily carry out checks on your vehicle’s key components. These tools allow you to perform diagnostics on multiple vehicle brands, unlike OBD1 that are usually manufacturer-specified.
ANCEL AD310, FOXWELL NT301, and Bluedriver are the best OBD2 scanners for beginners on the market. We’ll take a look at these scanners, comparing their features and functions.
Best cheap universal OBD2 scanners comparison chart
BlueDriver - Editor's Pick
(ABS, Airbag, Transmission)
|System diagnostics||Full System||Engine System||Engine System|
|Reset functions||Check Engine Light Reset||Check Engine Light Reset||Check Engine Light Reset|
|Vehicle Covered||Cars, SUVs, light trucks from 1996 and newer||Cars, SUVs, light trucks from 1996 and newer.||Vehicles sold in the United States from 1996 till date and all cars sold in the EU and Asia from 2000 till date.|
Best cheap universal OBD2 scanner: BlueDriver Vs. FOXWELL NT301 Vs. ANCEL AD310
Design and Connection
All three OBD2 scanners have a classic, compact design. So, you can easily carry them anywhere you go.
ANCEL AD310 and Foxwell NT310 both feature a cable that easily fits into your vehicle’s 16-pin OBDII DLC. The scanners boot up when you connect the cable to the DLC. The cable then serves as the communication link between your car and the scanner.
BlueDriver, on the other hand, doesn’t need any cable to work. Instead, it uses a Bluetooth connection. All you have to do is plug it into the car’s OBD2 port, install the BlueDriver App on your smartphone/tablet (Android and iOS), and you can perform diagnostics on your vehicle.
For convenience, BlueDriver is your best bet. You get all the benefits of a wired OBD2 scanner without the drawbacks of having to hang back and spend all your time diagnosing behind the steering wheel. You can move around your vehicle, although you still have to be within 30 feet of the scanner, while diagnosing faults from a comfortable position in your garage
OBD2 functions and Enhanced codes
All three universal scanners support all OBD2 protocols, such as ISO 9141-2, ISO 14230-4, SAE J1850 PWM, ISO 15765, and SAE J1850 VPW. They perform full OBD2 functions, including reading and clearing error codes, freeze frame data, accessing live data, executing I/M readiness test, O2 Sensor test, on-board monitor test, component test, and reading of vehicle Information. However, only BlueDriver can read and clear enhanced codes, such as ABS, Airbag Transmission, TPMS, Climate Control, and others.
So, while all three tools can serve OBD2 diagnostic purposes, only BlueDriver supports enhanced diagnostics. For that, it gets my recommendation.
System diagnostics and reset functions
All three scanners are primarily engine code readers. They diagnose what causes the “Check Engine Light” to come on and then reset it. The ANCEL AD310 and Foxwell NT301 only diagnose the engine system. However, BlueDriver can read and clear error codes in the ABS, SRS, and other vehicle systems. So, if you’re looking to perform just engine checks, then any of the three scanners can go.
However, to diagnose more systems beyond just the engine system, you should go with BlueDriver.
ANCEL AD310 works on all OBD2-supported vehicles sold in the United States from 1996 till date and all cars sold in the EU and Asia from 2000 till date. BlueDriver, on the other hand, supports all cars and light trucks with the model year 1996 or newer. Foxwell NT301’s vehicle coverage includes all cars and SUVs from 1996 and newer. With an OBD1-OBD2 adapter, the NT301 can also work with OBD1 vehicles from 1994 to 1995.
All three universal OBD2 scanners have extensive vehicle coverage. As long as your vehicle is OBD2-compliant, you won’t have any issues using any of the tools. So, I’ll recommend any one of those scanners.
For a beginner scanner, Foxwell NT301 could use a better and clearer instruction manual. Even its menu can get complicated at times. Aside from that, the only thing I don’t like is its protective casing, of which there is none, save some rubber protection around the edges.
BlueDriver doesn’t support Windows phones. If you want to use another mobile app, you might have to jump through some hoops to get it to work properly. Although it doesn’t occur all the time, the Bluetooth connection can sometimes drop or slow down. Lastly, adding advanced features like fob reprogramming and ECU coding would make this scanner perfect, although those are only for experts.
ANCEL AD310 is generally suitable for only absolute beginners since it largely has only basic functions. It also lacks the feature to scan some codes like the ABS system, stability, airbag. It doesn’t support some Nissan and other brand models, so it may be best to contact the manufacturer before buying. Although the manual doesn’t mention it, it can connect to your computer, but it doesn’t come with the required yet outdated Mini-B USB cord.
Best Professional OBD2 Scanner [for home mechanics]
Price range: $150-$500
As a home mechanic, the right professional OBD2 scanner can quickly become a wondrous tool in your hand. These scanners allow you to read trouble codes, analyze operational data, and arrive at the cause of the vehicle’s problems. But what are the top professional OBD2 scanners for home mechanics that you can rely on?
We’re going to review and compare Foxwell NT614 Elite, Launch CRP129E, and Autel MK808. Placing them side by side will help you make the right buying decision in earnest.
Best Professional OBD2 Scanner comparison chart
Autel MK808 - Editor's Pick
Foxwell NT614 Elite
|Advanced service Functions||8/10||6/10||5/10|
|IMMO Key coding||8/10||N/A||N/A|
|Vehicle Coverage||Cars, SUVs, light trucks, 12V HD trucks from 1996 and newer||Cars, SUVs, light trucks, 12V HD trucks from 1996 and newer||Cars, SUVs, light trucks, 12V HD trucks from 1996 and newer|
*Notes: Excellent: 9-10; Good: 7-8; Fair: 5-6; Poor: 3-4; Very poor: 1-2
Best Professional OBD2 Scanner: Autel MK808 Vs. Launch CRP129E Vs. FOXWELL NT614 Elite
OBD2 Functions and System Diagnostics
All three scanners perform full OBD2 functions. These functions include reading and clearing error codes, showing freeze frame data, live data, I/M readiness status, oxygen sensor test results, requesting on-board monitoring test, component test, vehicle information, and checking system status, and DTC lookup.
Foxwell NT614 Elite provides an affordable way for home mechanics to diagnose troubles in vehicles’ engine, transmission, ABS, and airbag/SRS systems. The Launch CRP129E is also a four-system scan tool, allowing you to check the same systems as the NT614 Elite. On the other hand, the MK808 is a full system diagnostic tool. It can check the engine, transmission, SRS, EPB, chassis, ABS, steering, and any other vehicle systems.
MK808 is the professional OBD2 scan tool of choice because it offers full system diagnostic functionality, which allows for comprehensive vehicle checks. If you’re looking to diagnose just the engine, transmission, ABS, and SRS systems, then I recommend buying the NT614E.
Advanced Service Functions
Advanced service functions of NT614 Elite include activation or deactivation of SBC systems, programming the clutch pedal, sensor calibration, and adaptations. NT614 Elite also allows reset services such as oil light reset, and EPB reset service, which both ensure the smooth running of the vehicle.
CRP129E takes it further with three additional service reset functions, which include TPMS reset, throttle position reset, and steering angle calibration.
Interestingly, Autel MK808 has even more service functions, over 25 in number. These service functions include oil reset, SAS calibration, adding and disabling IMMO keys, injector coding, battery registration, DPF regeneration, ABS bleeding, odometer, and others.
Without a doubt, the Autel MK808 stands out when it comes to advanced service functions. Notably, it allows for IMMO coding, which NT614 Elite and CRP129E don’t offer.
With MK808, you can read the IMMO code of specific car models, add and match new keys to the car, and delete keys that it doesn’t need.
If you want a tool with comprehensive service functionality, I recommend MK808.
However, if you just need some specific service functions, Launch CRP129E is an excellent choice.
If you intend to work on any OBD1 or OBD2 vehicles from 1996 to 2020 models, Foxwell NT614 Elite will be a good pick. The CRP129E supports cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans after 1996 up till some 2019 vehicles. While the CRP129E works with 57 car brands, Autel MK808 supports over 80 brands. The scanner works with different car models from 1996 and newer. So when it comes to making a choice based on vehicle coverage, you won’t go wrong with the Autel MK808.
Any of these scan tools will be compatible with any OBD2-compliant vehicles. So there isn’t so much of a headache making a choice in that regard.
Autel MK808 provides free updates for the first 12 months, but you’ll have to pay after that. Also, to avoid compatibility issues with exotic vehicles, we recommend checking the vehicle compatibility before buying it.
Some people have complained about the information provided on its IMMO function. In short, it can’t add new keys. Also, the wireless connection of this professional OBD2 scanner doesn’t include Bluetooth.
Launch CRP129E runs on a battery, which means that you have to keep it charged to use it. This advanced OBD2 scanner can perform multiple features on many car brands, but like many other scanners, it is limited by the features or data your OEM decides to share. Its many features mean that it costs a bit extra, and you may have to purchase some advanced features separately.
Foxwell NT614 Elite is quite limited when it comes to system diagnostics. It can’t diagnose other vehicle systems apart from the engine, ABS, SRS, and transmission. Sometimes, reading data can be slow on this device, and it isn’t always compatible with newer models.
Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner [for pros]
Price range: $750-$1,300
We have seen the best diagnostic scanners for beginners and home mechanics. But what if you’re an expert looking for the right tool to assist in figuring out what the problem is at a professional level?
A professional automotive diagnostic scanner for you must have advanced system diagnostics, service reset functions, programming, and coding.
Here, we’ll be looking at the Autel MP808K, Launch X431 V+, and Autel MS906BT. These are the top professional car diagnostic tools you can always count on.
Best professional car diagnostic tools comparison chart
Launch X431 V+ (Editor's Pick)
|Advanced service Functions||9/10||7/10||8/10|
|Vehicle Covered||10,000+ vehicle models, including Cars, SUVs, light trucks, 12V HD trucks, 24V diesel trucks from 1996 and newer||80+ vehicle models, including sars, SUVs, light trucks, 12V HD trucks from 1996 or newer||80+ vehicle models, including cars, SUVs, light trucks, 12V HD trucks from 1996 or newer|
*Notes: Excellent: 9-10; Good: 7-8; Fair: 5-6; Poor: 3-4; Very poor: 1-2
Best professional automotive diagnostic scanner: Autel MP808K Vs. Launch X431 V+ Vs. Autel MS906BT
Advanced system diagnostics
Autel’s MP808K and MS906BT are both full system automotive scanners, covering the engine, transmission, ABS, SRS, EPB, steering, light, and fuel systems – making it a perfect tool for pros.
In addition, the scanner can diagnose several modules available in a vehicle, including ECM, PDM, PCM, TPM, EPS, ABS, SCCM, ACS, and BCM. Autel MS906BT differs in that it supports bi-directional control over different vehicle systems and components.
Launch X431 V+ is also a full system diagnostic scanner. With the tool, you can carry out active tests for the ECM, ABS, TCM, BCM, SAS, TPMS, BMS, light system, A/C system, fuel system, etc.
This automotive diagnostic scanner also supports extended modules for more comprehensive vehicle checks. With these extended modules, you can perform ADAS calibrations (ADAS mobile), inspect hidden parts of the engine, braking system, and fuel tank (videoscope), and activate all vehicle sensors (x431 TSGUN). (However, you’ll have to buy these extended modules separately.)
Autel MP808K suits those that are looking to have a full-system diagnostic tool with a number of important service functions
If you’re willing to spend a little extra on extended modules, I recommend Launch X431 V+. The tool provides the most extensive system diagnostics of the three.
Advanced maintenance/service functions
The Autel MP808K and Autel MS906BT automotive scanners allow you to perform several maintenance functions, including oil reset, EPB reset, injector coding, throttle position reset, SAS calibration, ABS bleeding, IMMO coding, language change, suspension, seat, odometer, A/F setting, airbag reset, headlamp, turbocharging, trans adaption, CHG tire size, cylinder, and TEC learn.
However, not all of these reset functions work on all cars. You may have to check a car’s compatibility with the scanners’ manufacturer.
Also, the Autel MP808K supports a maximum of 23 reset functions, while the Autel MP906BT has 31 ones.
Notably, unlike Launch X431 V+, Autel MP808K and Autel MS906BT cannot service TPMS. Launch X431 V+ also has multiple special service functions, which include oil reset, fuel injector coding, brake reset, SAS reset, battery reset/maintenance, ABS blessing, electronic throttle initialization, TPMS reset, gear learn, SRS reset, engine reset, transmission system reset, steering angle calibration, etc.
The Launch X431 V+ supports TPMS reset and other reset functions, which puts it above the other two scan tools in this category.
All three automotive diagnostic scanners have full ECU coding capabilities (MP808K only supports ECU coding for some models). This feature allows you to improve vehicle performance by setting a new code for the ECU. Additionally, Launch X431 V+ supports offline and online ECU coding.
Another common feature is their support for programming key fobs for corrupt and lost keys in various vehicles. Their key programming functions include adding, deleting, and reprogramming keys, rewriting smart keys, resetting keys, etc.
However, with the Launch X431 V+, you won’t need a PIN code to perform those key programming functions.
So, Launch X431 V+ is the best choice considering its support for both offline and online ECU coding and not requiring a PIN code to program keys.
In addition to supporting over 10,000 vehicle models, the Launch X431 V+ scanner supports a heavy-duty module (Heavy Duty 3.0) that allows for diagnosing heavy-duty vehicles and diesel trucks. This definitely puts Launch X431 V+ on top of the pecking order.
Autel MP808K has 23 reset functions, but it can’t service the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). This feature is in demand by most professionals who want to turn off the TPMS light in some vehicles. Also, you may have to confirm which one of those reset functions work on your vehicle. The same goes for ECU coding. Apart from that, it perfectly fits the professional scanner category well.
Autel MS906BT has excellent battery life, but it still needs to be recharged. Recharging, however, isn’t as fast as it could be, but it is manageable. The other thing to note is that, like the Autel MP808K, it can’t service TPMS. You get free updates for the first year, although they are limited. After that, you’ll need to pay for newer updates.
Launch X431 V+ uses state of the art tech, which is why it costs slightly higher. The manufacturer includes a generous warranty and 2 years of free updates. After the first two years, updates cost around $400 per year.
Best scan tool with ECU programming/coding [for pros]
Price range: $2,500-$5,500
The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) controls the major functions of a vehicle. An ECU programming tool allows you to reprogram a car by transferring a ROM file to a permanent storage in the ECU.
As a professional auto technician, choosing the right ECU programming tool can be quite a fix.
Here, we’re going to compare the best ECU programming tools today. We’ll take a look at Autel MaxiSys Elite, X431 PAD V, and Autel MaxiSys Ultra.
With any of these tools, you can effectively reprogram a car to your customer’s specifications.
Best ECU programming tool comparison chart
Launch X431 Pad V - Editor's Pick
Autel MaxiSys Elite
Autel MaxiSys Ultra
|Advanced service functions||10/10||9/10*||9/10|
|ECU coding/ programming||10/10||9/10||10/10|
(99% of models in the world.)
(90% of models in the world)
(99% of models in the world)
*Notes: Excellent: 9-10; Good: 7-8; Fair: 5-6; Poor: 3-4; Very poor: 1-2
Best ECU Programming Tool: Autel Maxisys Vs. Launch X431 PAD V Vs. Autel Maxisys Ultra
Advanced service functions
Launch X431 Pad V features 50 reset service functions, including IMMO key coding, gear reset, SAS reset, TPMS reset, AFS reset, DPF reset, injector coding, oil reset, ABS bleeding, GEARBOX, BMS reset, EGR adaptation, ETS reset, etc.
For Autel MaxiSys Elite and Ultra scan tools, you get over 36 advanced service functions, including steering angle reset, suspension reset, oil light reset, injector coding, sunroof initialization, seat calibration, DPF regeneration, ABS bleeding, IMMO service, ABS bleeding, AFS headlamp reset, battery reset, language change, ODO reset, tire reset, airbag reset, A/F reset, gearbox reset, and TPMS reset.
You should go for Launch X431 Pad V if you’re looking for a tool that allows for more advanced service functions.
All three programming tools support bi-directional controls, which allow you to locate an issue without having to rip everything apart. Right from your scan tool, you can control the parking lamps, tail lamps, headlamps, front wiper, rear wiper, parking lamps, license plate lamps, A/C compressors, daytime running lights, cooling fan, door switch, and windows, and oil pressure warning lamps.
This way, you won’t have to drive your car or use in-car controls to recreate the problems it had. You can actuate solenoids and actuators with any of the scanners and send specific instructions to check the working status of specific components or systems.
Any of the three scanners will do the job for you when it comes to bi-directional controls.
Autel MaxiSys Elite, and Autel MaxiSys Ultra, and Launch X431 PAD V allow you to carry out both ECU programming and ECU coding.
They all support online and offline coding, but Autel MaxiSys Elite only supports ECU coding and programming in the US.
With ECU coding, you can program an empty ECU to arrive at the garage or customer’s specifications. You can also reprogram second-hand ECUs and match ECU components.
On the other hand, ECU programming allows you to download the latest version of the software from the internet and program it to the car’s ECU.
With this feature, you can easily reprogram vehicle control modules and adaptive data after replacements or repairs.
We recommend the Launch X431 PAD V for advanced ECU coding, ECU programming and key programming on a wide range of vehicles.
Supported protocols and vehicle coverage
Launch X431 PAD V covers virtually all car brands in the world and includes 15 adapters to extend coverage to OBD1 vehicles as well. Autel Maxisys Elite is also widely compatible with vehicle brands globally, covering over 10000 vehicle brands. On the other hand, the Autel Maxisys Ultra covers a modest 80+ vehicles including some supercars.
However, MaxiSys Ultra supports more protocols than the other two scanners. Its supported protocols include DoIP, PLC J2497, ISO-15765, SAE-J1939, ISO-14229 UDS, SAE-J2411 Single Wire Can (GMLAN), ISO-11898-2, ISO-11898-3, SAE-J2819 (TP20), TP16, ISO-9141, ISO-14230, SAE-J2610 (Chrysler SCI), UART Echo Byte, SAE-J2809 (Honda Diag-H), SAE-J2740 (GM ALDL), SAE-J1567 (CCD BUS), Ford UBP, Nissan DDL UART with Clock, BMW DS2, BMW DS1, SAE J2819 (VAG KW81), KW82, SAE J1708, SAE-J1850 PWM (Ford SCP), SAE-J1850 VPW (GM Class2).
MaxiSys Elite supports fewer protocols, including ISO 9141-2, ISO 14230-4, SAE J1850 PWM, ISO 15765, SAE J1850 VPW, Highspeed, Middlespeed, Lowspeed and Singlewire CAN, GM UART, UART Echo Byte Protocol, Honda Diag-H Protocol, TP 2.0, TP 1.6, SAE J1939, SAE J1708V.
Launch X431 Pad V supports the least number of protocols. It supports ISO 9141-2, ISO 14230-4, SAE J1850 PWM ISO 15765 CAN, SAE J1850 VPW, D-PDU API, J2534, RP1210, DoIP.
Despite that, the Launch X431 PAD V is our recommendation in this regard. It is a great fit for professional mechanics looking for a diagnostic scanner that supports almost any car they may encounter.
Launch X431 Pad V is a high-end device with high-end pricing. For the first year after purchase, you get to download updates for the device for free. However, you pay for updates in subsequent years. It lacks the Smartlink Remote Diagnosis feature, which allows you to diagnose vehicle’s remotely without a Launch scanner or other tools on-site. However, it can perform Remote Diagnosis if you have a Launch device on-site.
Autel MaxiSys Elite first drawback is that it doesn’t support ECM reprogramming for GM vehicles, although it fully supports ECU coding. The touchscreen can sometimes be too sensitive when using the device, so it takes some getting used to. Renewals are also pricey after the first year, although that isn’t uncommon for scan tools in this category.
Autel MaxiSys Ultra is an IP limited version, which means it won’t work in Europe. Some other Autel products have this limitation so you should check that it isn’t before buying it. Autel’s customer service can be better, but they always respond to emails.
Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Software
Nowadays, technology has made it easier to diagnose what’s wrong with our vehicles. With a professional diagnostic software, you can troubleshoot issues with your vehicles, clear ‘Check Engine Light,’ and improve its performance. Some auto diagnostic software products are compatible with all PC-based or mobile-based scan tools. Others only work with specific adapters.
TOAD Pro, OBDWiz, and AutoEnginuity are some of the best automotive diagnostic software for professional mechanics. While they all boast of exciting features, there are some differences you might want to know before getting one.
Best professional automotive diagnostic software comparison chart
|TOAD Pro - Editor's Pick||OBDWiz||AutoEnginuity|
|Operating systems||Windows® XP / Vista / Windows® 7 / 8.0 / 8.1/ 10 operating system (32 and 64 Bit)||Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10||Windows® XP / Vista / Windows® 7 / 8.0 / 8.1/ 10 operating system (32 and 64 Bit)|
|Price range||$79-$119||Free (when you purchase any qualifying OBDLink scan tool)||$249.95 (together with AutoEnginuity scan tool)|
|Advanced service functions||3/10||6/10||N/A|
*Notes: Excellent: 9-10; Good: 7-8; Fair: 5-6; Poor: 3-4; Very poor: 1-2
Best professional automotive diagnostic software: TOAD Pro Vs. OBDWiz Vs. AutoEnginuity
AutoEnginuity scan tool uses Windows operating system. It is compatible with Windows® XP / Vista / Windows® 7 / 8.0 / 8.1/ 10 operating systems (32 and 64 Bit). TOAD Pro also requires the same operating system.
OBDWiz is also a Windows PC-based diagnostic software, with support for Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.
There’s really no significant difference between the three diagnostic software when it comes to the operating system. So I will recommend any of them.
OBD2 Functions and System Diagnostics
All three software supports five OBD2 protocols, which include SAE JI850 PWN, SAE JI850 VPW, ISO 9141-2, ISO 14230 KWP, and ISO 15765-4. With AutoEnginuity, you can perform various OBD2 Functions such as read and clear error codes, bi-directional control, reset adaptations, view maintenance tests, automated VIN decoding, and live vehicle sensors.
OBDWiz also has similar OBD2 functions such as read and clear DTCs, freeze data frame, monitor tests, and PID values display.
TOAD Pro’s OBD2 functions include read and clear trouble codes, freeze frame data, 02 sensor test, on-board monitoring test, evaporative system leak test, and VIN.
AutoEnginuity provides access to a selection of vehicle systems, which include the engine, ABS, instrument cluster, airbags, chassis, body, and transmission system.
However, TOAD Pro only diagnoses the engine and transmission systems, with no support for ABS, SRS, brakes, and airbags. It even gets worse with OBDWiz, which only reads the engine system.
We recommend AutoEnginuity for its ability to diagnose problems in multiple vehicle systems, allowing for comprehensive car checks.
Advanced service functions
OBDWiz diagnostic software combines with its adapter to provide advanced service functions such as TPMS reset, ABS bleed, program keys, and E-brake.
Toad Pro only resets service lights, and there’s no advanced service functions information for AutoEnginuity, although ToadPro has in-depth manuals for different car brands.
AutoEnginuity has a separate tool for service resets on BMW Mini that you’ll have to buy differently.
You’ll have to buy the OBDWiz to be sure of the service reset functions you need.
With the right OBDLink scan tool, OBDWiz can prove very useful in tuning your car. It allows you to disable artificial engine noise, enable LED headlights, and even change the speedometer settings.
When it comes to ECU coding or OBD2 programming, TOAD Pro is the best choice here. It allows you to tune your cars or customer’s cars, which involves editing and reprogramming the vehicle’s data codes. There’s no coding/programming features offered by AutoEnginuity.
AutoEnginuity works with all OBD2 and EOBD IV+ compliant vehicles. Together with an OBDLink scan tool, OBDWiz supports almost all cars, SUVs, and light trucks sold in the US from 1996 to date.
The only exceptions are electric and hybrid vehicles. Meanwhile, TOAD Pro supports cars, SUVs, and 12V trucks made or imported into the United States after January 1996.
TOAD Pro doesn’t work with other OS apart from Windows, including Android, iOS, Linux, or macOS. Also, the connected adapter has to be an ELM327 adapter for it to work. To make a connection, you can use a USB cord or wireless setup. But the USB cord that comes with it is quite short, so you might have to use wireless more often.
OBDWiz has limited system diagnosis functionalities. It can only read codes from the engine system; it doesn’t support the diagnosis of other vehicle systems like ABS, transmission, TPMS, etc. OBDWiz also has limited advanced maintenance options. Although it can be great for tuning your car, it can’t program your ECU. It also only works with Windows.
AutoEnginuity can be difficult to use for beginners, and its help section isn’t so great. On features, it can perform all OBD2 tests and scan multiple systems, but it doesn’t have any maintenance/reset functions, not even CEL. Besides that, it can’t code or program an ECU.
Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast, home mechanic, or professional automotive technician, there’s a scan tool built just for you.
These scanners are essential for reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes and other advanced diagnostics on your vehicle. Choosing the right scanner can be problematic, especially when you’re not sure which one fits your skill level, and that’s why we put together this guide.
Below, you’ll find a brief recap of the scanners we’ve handpicked for the very varied needs of pros and beginners car repairers:
So, go get the OBD2 scanner that fits your needs and start diagnosing car problems without stress.
Automotive Diagnostic Tools Buying Guide
Benefits for DIYers
When the warning lights on your dash are illuminated, they’re responding to trouble codes that your engine’s computer has generated. For the engine, these codes are grouped under a diagnostic protocol known as OBDII. Short for “on-board diagnostics,” the OBD system is standardized across vehicle manufacturers, allowing mechanics to quickly identify and repair engine problems.
The engine isn’t the only system that puts out these trouble codes, either. You can troubleshoot errors in everything from your tire pressure to your airbags with the right code reader. These codes aren’t standardized, however, and can’t be read by all OBDII scan tools.
That’s where a professional scan tool comes into play, giving you access to error codes and other helpful data primary code readers won’t provide. Other benefits of a professional automotive diagnostic scanner are as follows:
Make Repairs Yourself Instead of Paying A Mechanic
Some vehicle issues require professional expertise, but others are simpler and can be easily (and cheaply) repaired at home. With a scan tool, you can identify the problem and its severity, gaining the knowledge you need to make small repairs yourself. Once those repairs are made, an automotive scan tool allows you to clear the error code and turn off the check engine light, too.
Preparing for State Emissions Tests
Much of the information included in OBD2 diagnostics is related to your vehicle’s smog emissions. With a professional automotive scanner, you can identify issues with the emission system before you go to the inspection, saving you both time and money.
Gain Insight Into Engine Health And Performance
Professional car scan tools read a range of parameters and data. Logging this information lets you identify trends and developing issues before they’re a big problem. When you do need to go to the mechanic, you’ll walk in knowing the exact issue you need to have fixed, giving you peace of mind that you’re not being ripped off.
Recommendation for any beginners: Bluedriver
Benefits for Auto Repair Shops
Automotive scanners don’t just read trouble codes and record module data. Professional models also allow you to interact with the engine, making necessary repairs and adjustments. If you’re a professional mechanic, there are a few key features you’ll need in a diagnostic tool:
More services to offer to your customers
A scanner with coding and programming capability allows you to go beyond necessary repairs. You can add services like making new key fobs or tuning the engine, things your customers would otherwise have needed to have done at a dealership.
Expanded vehicle coverage can grow your customer base
Professional scan tools can diagnose and repair vehicles from dozens of manufacturers. The more cars and trucks you’re able to work on, the more potential customers you have nearby.
Improve speed and efficiency
We all know time is money. Speed can be especially important in automotive repair, where customers are eager to get back on the road. Along with high processing speeds that scan trouble codes, many professional tools have intelligent features that automatically gather information from the engine. The inclusion of bi-directional control is another big time-saver, identifying failing valves or solenoids so you can get the right to repairs.
A diagnostic tool is useless if you can’t trust the information it gives you. Industry experts have vetted professional tools from trusted brands so you can count on the accuracy of their readings.
Recommendation for Auto Diagnostic Specialists/big shops: Launch X431 V+
Types of Automobile Diagnostic Scanner
Not all code readers are created equal—and it’s not just a matter of which brand makes them. Different models are suitable for specific users, so you want to make sure you get the right one for your needs. While there are a lot of different styles of automotive scanner out there, the ones you’re most likely to come across include:
OBD2 Scan Tools for DIY
This is the type of scanning tool that most DIYers want. It goes beyond a code reader, providing multi-system diagnosis and some service functions, but it is more affordable than OE-level diagnostic tools meant for professional garages. Bluedriver and Foxwell NT614 Elite are excellent choices in this group.
Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanners
Service functions, coding, and programming capabilities are the main advantages of professional diagnostic tools. You can tune, remap, and otherwise customize the ECU and perform tens of service and diagnostic functions. They’re more expensive and, therefore, what they can do is excellent. However, this type of diagnostic tool ONLY suits professionals working in auto repair shops. If you are a professional automotive technician or diagnostic specialist and ECU programming is not your priority, think about the Launch X431 V+. But if you regularly program ECU of BMW or Mercedes Benz vehicles with J2534, consider taking the Autel Maxisys Elite.
How Much Should I Pay?
DIY-ers should expect to spend somewhere around $100 – $500 for a high-quality diagnostic scanner. Models in this price range typically include full-system diagnosis and service functions such as Oil Reset, ABS Bleeding, Injector Coding, EPB Reset, BMS Service, SAS Calibration, DPF Regeneration, etc. The features they omit also tend to be what hobbyists and home mechanics won’t use anyway, things like ECU coding requiring more advanced knowledge to do successfully. A typical choice for you, if you want to have such a scan tool around $500, is the Autel MK808K. The Budget Buy is the Bluedriver, only about $100. Somewhere in the middle is the FOXWELL NT614 Elite, which costs you around $250.
A professional automotive technician or diagnostic specialist is most likely looking at a budget from $500+ to $3,000+. Expect to be on the higher end of that spectrum if you need more sophisticated service functions or complicated performances like car key coding, programming, or ECU mapping. With a budget of around $1,000 to $1,200, you can buy a professional car diagnostic tool like Launch X431 V+, my favorite choice ever. It can do almost everything in your shop, from Oil Reset to ABS bleeding, from bidirectional control to key programming, or ECU coding.
Compatibility and Vehicle Coverage
The OBD2 code system is universal on all vehicles made in 1996 and later. Most professional car diagnostic scanners have broad compatibility for essential diagnostic functions, but the same may not be true of the service functions, “active tests,” or multi-system diagnostic abilities.
With BlueDriver, for example, you can read necessary information from any vehicle with an OBD2 port. It can also read and clear Enhanced Codes for ABS, SRS, and transmissions systems, but not all cars. Those services are only available for select brands and vehicle model years.
The same is true of more advanced professional scanners. The Autel Maxisys Elite is compatible with more than 10,000 models, but not all service functions will be available for all of them. The most limited is the J2534 ECU programming, which can only be done on two manufacturers BMW and Mercedes.
The bottom line is that you should pay close attention to which features are offered for vehicles when you’re shopping for diagnostic tools.
Automotive diagnostic tools don’t just read trouble codes and record module data. Professional models also allow you to interact with the engine, making necessary repairs and adjustments. If you’re a professional mechanic, there are many crucial features you’ll need in an advanced auto diagnostic tool:
Full OBD2 Diagnostic Functions
The OBD2 diagnostics consists of ten modes. These include reading and clearing codes, retrieving live and freeze frame data, and conducting emissions tests. Many cheap code readers will only give you access to half of these modes or less. For the most accurate diagnosis, DIYers will want to get a scanner with full OBD2 functionality like the Bluedriver.
Price range: $119-$129
All System Diagnosis
Scanners that can read trouble codes from all the electronic modules in a vehicle are ideal for advanced DIYers and necessary for professionals. The OBDII system doesn’t catch all engine problems. In a professional garage, you need a scanner that can read all electronic modules, giving you a complete picture of the engine’s health. You’ll find many scanners in the price range from $200 to $300, like the FOXWELL NT614 Elite that not only lets you diagnose all systems but also perform several service functions like Oil Reset or EPB services. The average price goes up if you also want to get information from other electronic modules like climate control.
Reset and Service Functions
The term “service functions” is a catch-all for a range of repair functions included in auto scanning tools. One of the most common is oil reset, allowing you to turn off the oil light on your dash and reset the parameters after an oil change. Other essential functions include DPF regeneration, ABS bleeding, TPMS reset, adjustments to the throttle or suspension, etc. Generally speaking, reset and service functions will be more important from a professional standpoint than they are to DIY-ers, though they can be helpful in home garages, as well. You will find the essential service functions (26 ones) in the Autel MK808K, a perfect pick for you if you’re an experienced home mechanic.
Active Tests/Bidirectional Control
Also called “active testing,” bidirectional control allows the mechanic to activate or test mechanical components on demand. This process tells you if individual actuators, valves, and pumps function the way they should, allowing for more efficient and effective repairs. If you’re looking to do such tests, buy the Launch X431 V+, one of the best bi-directional scan tools today.
Key/ECU Coding and Programming
Car key/key fob/ECU coding or programming is primarily used to change keys, tuning, and remapping engines to optimize their performance, allowing you to make changes to the engine computer’s parameters and settings. It’s also helpful for making software updates and troubleshooting issues with fuel efficiency or engine power.