Best OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner

Dorian Smith-Garcia Profile image

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Updated January 24, 2023

After careful consideration and research, we’ve determined that the best OBD2 car diagnostic scanner is the Kobra OBD2 Scan Tool. In addition to also being our best on a budget selection, we liked that this simple to use scanner was great for beginners, supported generic as well as manufacturer-specific codes, and can also clear check engine lights.

To determine the best OBD2 car diagnostic scanner, we focused on the following features: scanner type, connectivity, interface, diagnostic support, and data functionality. An easy to use scanner with a stable connection that offers clear readouts and conveniently organized data is essential for this critical tool to be useful whether you’re a professional or DIY car maintenance enthusiast. We also considered which diagnostics could be run, focusing on scanners that provided comprehensive options. Keep reading to learn more about the rest of our top picks. And, also check out our top picks for the best car accessories.

Top 7 Best OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanners

 #1  Kobra OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner


WHY WE LIKE IT: This is the best budget OBD2 scanner that can support generic and manufacturer-specific car codes and eliminate the check engine light.

  • Best on a budget
  • Check engine light eliminator
  • Supports generic and manufacturer-specific codes
  • Only a level 1 scanner

Whether you’re on a budget or are just starting to dabble into the world of DIY car diagnostics, you might not be ready to spend a lot of money on an OBD2 scanner. The Kobra OBD2 scan tool is the best cheap OBD2 scanner in our guide. We like that in addition to being our Top Pick and Best on a Budget recommendation, this is an easy-to-use scanner that supports over 3,000 generic and manufacturer-specific codes. If you are looking for an easy-to-use car starter, our best remote car starter list is a good place to start.

This OBD2 scanner is also powered by your car, meaning you won’t need to waste money and time looking for batteries. Another benefit is that this scanner doesn’t just support engine diagnostics, but can clear your check engine light. You’ll also like that it supports CAN, VPW, PWM, ISO, and KWP 2000 protocols. If you’re doing repair work on your car, take a look at this list to find the best muffler for your needs.

 #2  Foxwell NT301 OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner


WHY WE LIKE IT: A full-color screen and the ability to support live data graphing and logging make this one of the best OBD2 scanners with live data.

  • Full-color screen
  • Live data graphing and logging
  • No battery required
  • Inconsistent foreign car support

If you need an OBD2 scanner that gives you more control over the data it produces, then this Foxwell option is one of the best OBD2 scanners with live data. We like that this is a full-color screen with an easy to use interface. As is common, you power this scanner by plugging it into your car. With this scanner, you can run comprehensive diagnostics on your engine including O2 sensors, emissions, and even turn off your check engine light.

We like that you can graph live vehicle sensor data and even connect this device to a printer to keep your diagnostics report in physical form. You’ll also like that this scanner is equipped with green, yellow, and red LEDs and a built-in speaker to provide clear results for emissions tests. This model also supports generic and manufacturer-specific codes and shows the definition automatically. You can also view freeze frame data. If you want your car to be prepared for anything you may also want to pick up the best gas can for your car.

 #3  Autel AutoLink AL319 OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner

Award: BEST FOR DIYers

WHY WE LIKE IT: A simple OBD2 code reader that’s ideal for budding DIY mechanics who want to perform a diagnostic check their vehicles before they take it to the shop.

  • Great “plug & play” design
  • Clear code descriptions
  • Full-color display
  • Doesn’t support DTC fault code lookup

Some people don’t trust going to a mechanic because of concerns that they’ll get taken for a ride with a laundry list of auto problems that may or may not exist. For the DIYer, we recommend the Autel AutoLink scanner. This is a simple plug-and-play style OBD2 scanner that is ideal for basic engine diagnostics and emission analytics. The Autel scanner also supports all standard OBD2 protocols: KWP2000, ISO9141, J1850 VPW, J1850 PWM, and CAN.

We like that, as is standard with Level 1 OBD2 scanners, this is a great option that displays error codes as well as brief descriptions. This budget-friendly tool also supports live data and freeze frame displays. We also like that this model supports seven different languages, and a long connection cable to power this device through your car. You’ll also have VIN reading and code clearing support with this OBD2 scanner. If you want to make your car smell nice too, take a look at the best car diffuser for your next drive. Or, take a look at our best leather steering wheel cover, if you need something that’s comfortable and easy to install.

 #4  Bafx Products Wireless Bluetooth OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner


WHY WE LIKE IT: A scanner with Bluetooth connectivity that turns your smart device (Windows or Android) into a diagnostics center for your car, giving you the freedom to stay on top of your car’s maintenance whenever you like.

  • Very easy to install and setup
  • Wireless connectivity to device (no wires)
  • Can clear check engine light
  • Not compatible with Apple devices

Some people might think that a traditional OBD2 car scanner is clunky. If that sounds familiar, then we recommend the Bafx Products Wireless scanner. This is an OBD2 scanner with Bluetooth connectivity that turns your smartphone, tablet, or computer into an engine diagnostics center. However, this device is only compatible with Android and Windows devices.

Once you download the app, you’ll have full access to your engine diagnostics. The small receiver size makes this easy to keep in the car so you can always check your car at a moment’s notice. As is common, you can use this device and the app to read and clear check engine lights, check your emissions and confirm that your O2 sensors are working properly. If you’re interested in this scanner, take a look at the best trunk organizer too.

 #5  Ancel AD310 Classic Enhanced Universal OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner


WHY WE LIKE IT: A classically designed professional car diagnostic tool that supports a wide range of diagnostic scans and offers wide language support.

  • Large and easy to read screen
  • Supports comprehensive diagnostics
  • Supports 8 languages
  • Clunky interface

Some people prefer a more old school style OBD2 scanner. In that case, we recommend the Ancel AD310 scanner. This professional car diagnostic tool features a classic design with a large LCD that measures 128 by 64 pixels. What makes this stand out is that it’s one of the few scanners in our guide that does more than run engine diagnostics. You can also scan for ABS, SRS, and transmission systems as well as emissions and O2 sensors. But we also like that this model features the widest support for eight different languages.

As is standard, this model is designed for engine diagnostics and is powered by your car. This scanner supports live data streams and freeze frame data. You can also retrieve vehicle information such as the VIN, and you can use the library to look for engine fault codes. Meanwhile, the error code will automatically display the definition. You can also use this scanner to turn off your check engine light. If you have kids, you may want to also consider the best car seat protector for your vehicle.

 #6  Kungfuren OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner


WHY WE LIKE IT: A simple OBD2 engine scanner that can test for multiple system codes, fits in the palm of your hand, and supports live data feeds.

  • Comprehensive system testing support
  • Great handheld design
  • Can clear check engine light
  • Only supports engine diagnostics

Sometimes you don’t need all the bells and whistles if all you want to do is pinpoint what might be causing your car’s engine trouble. We think the Kungfuren OBD2 scanner is a great solution for people who need an affordable no-frills diagnostics scanner. While this model only supports engine diagnostics, we do like that you still get real-time data.

You’ll like that this device supports multiple protocols including CAN, KWP, SAW J1850 PWM, AE J1850 VPW, and SO 9141-2. Although the screen is a simple black and white style, it features a large 2.8-inch display that gives you plenty of space to view the trouble code and its definition. Plus you can use the lookup library. We also like that this device supports six languages.

 #7  Launch OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner


WHY WE LIKE IT: A comprehensive wireless OBD2 touchscreen scanner that provides, engine, oil, transmission, and ABS codes for a truly mobile diagnostic experience.

  • Wirelessly enabled for a quick connection
  • Comprehensive system diagnostics
  • Touchscreen device
  • Expensive

If you’re a serious at-home mechanic, then you may find the bulk of our OBD2 scanners to be limiting since most of them are only related to engine diagnostics. In that case, the Launch OBD2 Scanner is going to be your new best friend. In addition to engine diagnostics, this scanner can also check for ABS, SRS, transmission, and oil systems. We also like that you get real-time monitoring and data. And with support for nine languages and an intuitive touchscreen interface, we think the Launch scanner deserves to be our Best Quality pick.

You’ll also like that you can reset the oil, SAS, EPB, and TPMS as well as the ability to adapt the throttle. While this device states that it’s designed for Android, other systems are compatible with it. You’ll like that there’s a large five-inch LCD screen and that you can use your phone or tablet’s WiFi as a hotspot to power this scanner. Plus report printing is also supported. And as is common, you’ll get access to a built-in diagnostic trouble code (DTC) lookup library and AutoVIN support.

How We Decided

An OBD2 car diagnostic scanner is a great item if you find that your car is in constant need of repair, or frequent trips to the mechanic are leaving you suspicious. To create our guide, we focused on the following criteria — scanner type, connectivity, the interface, diagnostic support, and data functionality. You’ll find that while there are three main types of OBD2 scanners, in our guide we featured a Bluetooth scanner (#4) and the rest are hand-held scanners.

Connectivity is going to be a personal choice based on what you view as being the easiest to use. But in our guide, the majority relies on a cable that must be manually plugged into your car. However, you also have the option of Bluetooth (#4) or WiFi support (Best Quality).

Diagnostic support is another issue that’s going to impact which OBD2 scanner you purchase. The majority of our recommendations are limited solely to engine diagnostics — which also includes emissions and O2 sensor reviews. But you’ll find that the Best Quality and our #5 picks go beyond this with support for ABS, SRS, and transmission code retrieval.

Next, you’ll need to think about the interface, or how easily you can navigate through the device to run diagnostics, look up codes, or review compiled data. In our opinion, the winner for this was our Best Quality pick since it’s the only touchscreen-based device in our guide. However, other features like full-color screens (Honorable Mention, #3, and #5) and clearly labeled categories can also make using your OBD2 scanner easier. Only our #4 pick technically lacks a screen interface since it relies on an app that you need to use with your Android or Windows devices.

If you’re hoping to take your data off the device or send it to an auto mechanic, your best bets will be our Honorable Mention and our Best Quality picks. Both of these models offer printer support. Meanwhile, only our Top Pick lacked live data support.

Best OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Factors to Consider

  1. Vehicle Compatibility
    OBD2 car diagnostic scanners tend to be universal in terms of car compatibility. Most cars manufactured after 1996 should work with this type of scanner. However, if you own a hybrid or electric car, they may not be compatible.
  2. Scanner Type
    OBD2 scanners come in two types: scan tools and code readers. Scan tools are more expensive because they can provide details about specific manufacturer codes, can record data, and offer advanced troubleshooting information. Code readers can work with cars that already have an OBD2 system installed in them. But this type of scanner — while cheaper — is limited and doesn’t come with specific manufacturer codes and doesn’t provide advanced data like the scan tools do.
  3. Connection Type
    There are three common types of connections: Bluetooth scanners, PC based scanners, and hand-held scanners. Bluetooth scanners give you the most versatility since you can connect them to your smartphone, tablet, or computer. PC based scanners require a computer connection to work. And hand-held scanners tend to be the preferred option for professionals because they can be used on a wide range of automotive systems.
  4. Information Output
    The main reason you’re using a scanner is to perform diagnostics on your car. So, a scanner with a limited screen, or hard to read codes can make this process more difficult. Look for OBD2 car diagnostic scanners that display information — especially if they offer definitions for what each display code means.
  5. Connectivity
    While not a necessity, a scanner that can be used with an app can help you easily manage all of the data that’s being compiled. It can also be useful if you need to diagnose multiple cars.
  6. Interface Layout
    Imagine trying to find a specific diagnostic report but being required to scroll through endless pages of data to get to it. Considering that many OBD2 car diagnostic scanners support the management of multiple car systems, you’ll want a scanner with an organized interface so you can easily find key information when you need it.

OBD2 Car Diagnostic Scanner FAQs

Which is the best diagnostic car scanner?

The best scanner is going to be the one that you find easiest to use and that provides the right level of diagnostic reports for your needs. However, we think the Kobra OBD2 Scan Tool is a great option because of its affordability coupled with a straightforward design for simple engine diagnostics and the ability to clear check engine lights.

What is the difference between OBD and OBD2 scanners?

An OBD scanner is connected to your vehicle’s console whereas an OBD2 can be connected remotely. Additionally, OBD2 scanners tend to offer better messaging formats, signaling protocols, and clearer descriptions.

What cars are compatible with OBD2 scanners?

In the United States, OBD2 scanners are designed to work with cars and trucks made in 1996 or later.
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