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.
Let’s start with the rating and pricing comparison chart.
Table of Contents
Best professional car diagnostic tools comparison chart
|Autel MK808||$479||9.3/10||Experienced |
|Launch X431 V+||$1,199||9.7/10||Professionals|
|Autel Maxisys Elite||$2,899||8.9/10||Professionals|
*Prices were updated on July 14th, 2021.
Best professional OBD2 scanners review
The BlueDriver system is aimed at everyday car owners and drivers. It can read engine codes from any OBD2-compatible vehicle, most of the cars and trucks on the road today. For select manufacturers, it also performs 4-system diagnosis (transmission, ABS, SRS, and engine). This auto scan tool is currently available for select model years of 13 manufacturers. This includes common brands like Ford and Toyota but leaves out some major names, notably Chevrolet and Jeep. If you’re buying BlueDriver for its enhanced codes, double-check its compatibility with your car before you pull the trigger.
You don’t have to be a repair expert to take advantage of BlueDriver. The Repair Reports function gives vehicle-specific suggestions and explains the meaning of trouble codes. Even advanced DIYers can benefit from this extra insight and make faster repairs with BlueDriver.
That makes it the ideal diagnostic tool for home mechanics of all experience levels.
- Allows continuous monitoring
- Easy to install and use
- Works with both Android and Apple devices
- Repair Reports function provides verified fixes from certified mechanics
- Customizable dashboard
- Free and automatic updates
- Enhanced codes only available on select vehicle models
- No service or programming features
Verdict: The convenience of BlueDriver is its main advantage. It’s a perfect professional OBD2 scan tool for drivers who want to find what’s wrong with the car when any of the dashboard lights comes on.Check Price at Amazon
2. Launch CRP129E
The diagnostic functions on the Launch CRP129E make it an excellent choice for advanced home mechanics or as a travel diagnostic tool for professionals. It can read sensors and trouble codes from the four major systems, in addition to performing useful functions like real-time battery monitoring, oxygen sensor tests, and more.
We also appreciate that you can record and export data you read on the Launch CRP129E. The automatic health report function is a fast, easy way to get a complete picture of your car’s health at a glance.
Along with diagnostics, the CRP129E also supports essential repair functions. Since you can reset the tire pressure or throttle position in your home garage, that opens up more options for at-home repairs and saves you money at the mechanic.
- 4-system diagnosis (engine, transmission, SRS, ABS)
- Record and graph live data from up to 10 PIDs simultaneously
- Five reset services, including oil light and TPMS
- 5″ HD touchscreen is easy to read and navigate
- Broad compatibility (57+ brands supported)
- Free lifetime upgrades
- Repair functions limited for a professional tool
- No bi-directional control
Verdict: The 4-system diagnosis and reset functions of the Launch CRP129E make it an excellent choice for advanced home mechanics and professionals on the go.Check Price at Amazon
3. Autel MK808
Autel is another top name in diagnostic scanners, and their MaxiCOM MK808 Scan Tool is one of the most affordable options with the full-system diagnosis you’ll find. You can diagnose everything from the emissions to the headlights, and its fast, precise operation means you’ll get that data quickly (and can trust it to be accurate).
The repair functions on the Autel MK808 are relatively comprehensive, as well. While it doesn’t offer advanced coding and programming capabilities, it goes beyond an ordinary scan tool with features like DPF regeneration and BMS reset.
Professionals will also appreciate the design of the Autel MK808. Its sturdy housing is easy to grip and resists damage from drops and impacts, and the intuitive menu layout makes navigation a breeze.
- Full system diagnosis
- Reset functions including TPMS, DPF, and BMS
- Quad-core processor for accurate, fast diagnosis
- Compatible with most vehicles from the US and Europe
- Easy to navigate 7″ touchscreen
- Great value for the included features
- No programming or re-learning capabilities
- Doesn’t include active testing
Verdict: The Autel MK808 is an excellent mid-price option for repair professionals. While it lacks more advanced coding functions, its rugged, accurate diagnostics greatly value the money.Check Price at Amazon
Best professional automotive diagnostic scanners review
1. Autel MK808BT
The Autel MaxiCOM is a comprehensive diagnostic tool for an experienced home mechanic. The menu layout is designed for quick access to the most often used diagnostics and features. It can diagnose and reset all dash lights, including the oil, ABS, and SRS systems, so it’s very handy as a troubleshooting tool in a home garage. You’ll also love how affordable the updates are. They’re free the first year and around $120/year after that.
The vehicle compatibility of the Autel MK808BT is broad but inconsistent. It can communicate with more than 80 vehicle manufacturers but not for all service functions. ABS bleed is one function many mechanics have an issue with since it won’t work consistently on common vehicles like Jeep Cherokees (along with other models). This is the main reason it’s not recommended for all professional mechanics, along with the lack of active testing and ECU coding functions. It could work in small garages, but it’s not as feature-rich as the two options above.
- Diagnoses all vehicle modules
- 21 service functions, including IMMO reset and key programming
- Option of wireless or hardline connection
- Compatible with US, European, and Asian vehicles
- Includes 1 year of free software updates
- Excellent customer support through data manager
- Not all functions available for all vehicles
- No ECU coding capabilities
Verdict: The Autel MaxiCOM MK808BT is the best mid-range car diagnostic scanner and is suitable for small garages and advanced hobbyists.Check Price at Amazon
2. Launch X431 V+
Professional mechanics who work on vehicles worldwide will get a lot of use out of the Launch X431 V+. It’s compatible with more than 10,000 car makes—and it doesn’t just perform basic OBD2 diagnostics. All-system diagnosis and advanced features like key fob programming make it an amazing all-in-one tool for any garage.
For most hobbyists, the Launch X431 V+ is more scan tool than you’ll need. Since it’s designed with professional automotive diagnostic software for professionals, non-experts may find the included instructions a bit confusing at first. Having said that, advanced DIY-ers will appreciate the range of reset functions and will find the tool intuitive to use, with large built-in memory for storing vehicle information. It also comes with two years of free updates and costs about $400/year to update after that, so it has a lower ongoing cost than other professional automotive tools.
- Bi-directional communication allows active testing
- Supports key programming and ECU coding
- Fast diagnosis with Auto-Detect
- Wide range of reset and service functions
- Compatible with more than 10,000 vehicle models
- Optional Heavy Truck add-on
- 2 years free updates included
- Some users have difficulty pairing to wireless OBD2 connector
Verdict: The Launch X431 V+ is the best value you’ll find in professional auto diagnostic tools, offering the same robust diagnostic and programming functions as scanners that cost 4-5 times as much.Check Price at Amazon
3. Autel MaxiSys Elite
The convenience and flexibility of the Autel MaxiSys Elite will be worth the investment for professional garages. It’s able to communicate with all OBD2-equipped vehicles wirelessly and performs more tests and service functions than most scanners on the market.
The main complaint from professional mechanics about Autel MaxiSys Elite is its coding and programming functions. They work great for BMW and Mercedes vehicles but aren’t available for any other models, an issue for garages that work on various cars. Accessing advanced functions also requires a paid subscription after two years, and it’s not cheap at $1,200 a year. It’s worth the expense for larger garages but may not be something you can afford in a smaller shop.
- ECU programming for BMW and Mercedes
- Easy to use touchscreen interface
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Wide vehicle compatibility
- Efficient diagnosis of complex vehicle issues
- Allows performance enhancement and ECU customization
- Includes 36+ service functions
- Higher price point
- $1,200 Autel subscription required to update after first 2 years
Verdict: The Autel MaxiSys Elite belongs in a professional garage. It’s capable of diagnosing, servicing, and customizing most vehicles a customer brings in.Check Price at Amazon
Read more: Tim’s review of Autel MaxiSys Elite
After thorough research, it’s clear all of these tools have their own strengths and weaknesses. The biggest difference between them comes down to functionality.
Professionals who need more service functions, coding ability, and active testing will want to spend the extra money for the Autel Maxisys Elite or Launch X431 V+. Between the two, the Launch X431 V+ worked most consistently with the broadest range of vehicles and is the best value for a professional diagnostic scan tool.
Home users can save themselves some money by honestly evaluating which features they need. If you are at the experience level to replace the tires, change the oil, and make similar repairs at home, service functions like TPMS reset or oil light reset will be big money-savers, and something like the Autel MaxiCOM MK808 will be worth the investment.
Those looking for more basic diagnostic information right on the smartphone may get more out of something like BlueDriver, especially given its continuous monitoring abilities.
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 NT624 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 MK808BT. The Budget Buy is the Bluedriver, only about $100. Somewhere in the middle is the FOXWELL NT624 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.Check Price at Amazon
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 NT624 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 MK808BT, 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.
1. What are the differences between Autel Maxisys Elite and Autel Maxisys Pro (MS908P)?
You can see the Maxisys Elite as the upgraded version of the Maxisys Pro. They offer the same functions and vehicle coverage, but the improved components in the Maxisys Elite give it a longer battery life and faster processing speed. The Maxisys Elite is also compatible with USB 3.0 and can operate better in extreme temperatures.
2. What is the difference between Launch X431 V and Launch X431 V+?
The X431 V+ has a larger screen that’s easier to read and navigate. It also uses a quad-core processor, compared to the dual-core processor in the Launch X431 V, and has a larger memory capacity, enabling it to perform diagnostic scans more quickly. While both units have onboard Bluetooth support and one-click update, the X431 V+ also has the option for wireless report printing.
3. Does Launch X431 V+ support supercars like Ferrari, Maserati, or Lamborghini?
Some super-charged engines are supported, including Ferrari and Maserati. In addition to basic diagnostic functions, it supports service functions like clutch PID, gear learning, and throttle adaptation. Unfortunately, the Launch X431 V+ does not support Lamborghinis.
4. Can Launch X431 V+ relearn crank position and idle?
Yes, for most supported vehicles.
5. Why is the Launch X431 V+ not listed on the Launch Tech USA website?
The Launch X431 V+ is sold exclusively in the United States through their authorized Amazon distributor and can’t be purchased directly from the company on their website. This is why you won’t see the product listed on that page.
6. Does the Autel MK808BT diagnose US-made vehicles?
Yes, the Autel MK808BT is compatible with over 80 manufacturers, including vehicles made in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
7. Does Autel MK808BT come with a Bluetooth connection? Can it work without WI-FI?
The Autel MK808BT has Bluetooth support built-in. It also has the option of a wired connection, so you can use it when there’s no Wi-Fi available.
8. Can Autel MK808BT relearn the idle?
No, the Autel MK808BT does not support that function. If you need the ability to relearn idle, you’ll want to look at the Maxisys Elite reviewed above.
9. What’s the difference between the Foxwell NT624 Elite and the NT614 Elite?
The main difference is that the Foxwell NT614 Elite is a 4-system diagnostic tool that reads information from the engine, transmission, ABS, and SRS. The Foxwell NT624 Elite is an all-system diagnostic tool. It can read information from all electronic modules, including those listed above and things like climate control.
10. Is the Foxwell NT624 Elite able to turn off a check engine code?
The NT624 Elite can clear the trouble codes that turn on the check engine light. If the check engine light comes back on after you’ve cleared these codes, theirs is likely an ongoing issue in the engine that needs to be fixed.
11. Will the Foxwell NT624 Elite show previous history codes?
Yes. The Foxwell NT624 Elite can read all codes, including permanent codes and previous history codes.
12. Will the BlueDriver device display “short term and long term” fuel trim data?
Yes, you can view the fuel trim data under the Live Data section for most vehicles. You can check whether it’s compatible with your vehicle on the BlueDriver website.
13. Do you need an internet connection to use BlueDriver?
You can use many of the diagnostic functions of BlueDriver without an internet connection, including reading and clear codes, reviewing freeze frame data, running smog checks, and viewing live data.
More advanced features do require an internet connection. These include VIN decoding and repair reports and retrieving service bulletins, recalls, and maintenance schedules. You’ll also need an internet connection to update the software or share reports.
14. Is BlueDriver compatible with all phones and tablets?
BlueDriver works with all iOS devices running operating system version 10.2 or later. It’s also compatible with Android devices running version 6.0 or later. Keep in mind you will need a Bluetooth connection to use your device with BlueDriver, which may not be available on all Android tablets. The BlueDriver app is not currently compatible with Windows devices.
15. Which vehicles are compatible with BlueDriver?
BlueDriver can read engine codes from all consumer vehicles sold in the United States or Canada after 1996. Enhanced codes are available for many popular manufacturers, including BMW (2005 and later), Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai (2011 and later), Mazda, Mercedes (2005 and later), Mitsubishi (2008 and later), Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen. Suppose you want to verify which features will work on your vehicle, head over to BlueDriver’s FAQ. There’s a form where you can enter the make, model, and year of your vehicle to get a specific list of BlueDriver’s compatibility.