4 Hints To Know In Picking Out The Best OBD2 Scanners

obd2 scanners
Helen Begley By Helen Begley | Editor

Selecting The Best OBD2 Scanner

OBD2 scanners are some of the most useful pieces of testing hardware any car owner could hope to buy, and it won't matter if you're that great under the car's hood or not. These devices are simple and affordable, providing an easy way to identify any issues a vehicle might have, often with the power to monitor things and see crucial data related to overall performance and emissions. So which OBD2 scanner is right for you?

Even though most OBD2 scanners offer the same set of basic functions, many of the more elaborate ones also feature other benefits and uses, which will provide you with even more insight into your personal vehicle. Many options are available to you of what you can do with any findings you discover as well. This guide goes over how essential it is to figure out which OBD2 scanner is optimal for your car, some crucial factors to think about, and even a few of the best OBD2 scanners we like on the current market.

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1 Choosing Your OBD2 Carefully

An OBD2 scanner is critical to learning your car's inner workings, and it will provide you with more than just some troubleshooting. When utilized properly, an OBD2 is going to give you a powerful method to ensure that your car is avoiding possible problems, all while running its very best all the time. Each car is unique, and the needs of every car owner are distinct, too. Given this, it's crucial that you pick a model that meets every single one of your needs, proves simple to use, and also fits comfortably within your budget. The right OBD2 scanner can mean that you have a fast and simple way to monitor and assess your car at any given time while also gathering up information necessary to make reliable repairs, whether you do it on your own or have a professional mechanic do it.

The prices of OBD2 scanners can vary a lot in price, with many high-end units running hundreds of dollars. As with any other piece of electronics in that price range, you need to make sure that you're actually getting a great one and not just rolling the dice on a model under the assumption that it's going to work out well for you. Not all OBD2 scanners are made the same, and there can be extreme variation between models. So you need to start off by considering what needs you and your car have before you proceed with your purchase.

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2 Things To Consider When You Buy


The terminology of OBD2 scanners gets thrown around a lot. However, it can prove particularly misleading, depending on the actual models used. There are two primary kinds of such devices; some are scan tools, and others are code readers.

The code readers are usually the more basic of these two categories. Code readers offer you only limited functionality, which centers mostly on reading the diagnostic codes. With any code reader, you typically plug it in, wait for the active codes to show up on the screen, then you're able to look at them for proper diagnosis. Code readers will almost always let you clear your code, too, which signals the car to deactivate the "check engine soon" light that might have come on. Rarely will they offer you anything past this, as they're designed to be as simple as they can be.

Many code readers have a tiny screen that almost looks like those you see on calculators. They're not flashy, as they only provide codes and the function for resetting a check engine light. A few models might also sport emissions data, but that's rare.

Scan tools are also called OBD2 scanners, and they're the more advanced kind. Scan tools offer a wide array of various features and functions that transcend just showing you a diagnostic code on their screens, and if you want the possible information and data about your car, this is the way to go. On top of clearing and reading codes, a scan tool might even provide you the codes specific to the manufacturer so that you get even more insight, records, and data for your analysis. OBD2 tools at the higher end of the spectrum will even suggest what common issues might be triggering a particular problem and also recommend a course of action to fix it. Such devices often come with bigger screens and improved graphics, and the latest models might even have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity to communicate with your smartphone, tablet, or computer.


Your total budget is going to have a lot of say into which particular device will wind up in your hands. Cheap code readers can be had for just $30 to $40, but you'll also be saddled with only limited usage and functionality. Once you get into the hundred dollar range, you'll see an expansion of your options, as the choices you have among several scan tools with broad functionality offer far more than just reading and clearing codes. If you are able to spend more than a hundred dollars, you can pick from premium OBD2 scanners that have larger screens, increased compatibility, better troubleshooting and database help, and user-friendly menus.

Vehicle Coverage:

The category of OBD2 scanners includes scan tools that are compatible with any vehicles manufactured after 1996. While, theoretically, any scanner should prove able to work with cars that come after 1996, some exceptions do happen based on the model and make. You can quickly check this out beforehand. Some OBD2 scanners even include connectors that you can use in conjunction with older cars or different kinds of vehicles, such as bigger commercial vehicles. Know what your make and model are beforehand, so you're confident that the product you're contemplating on is entirely compatible.

Screen Type:

The screen is rarely the most crucial element of any OBD2 scanner, but it does sport a massive role regarding the functionality and user-friendliness. Primary screens are often just black and white and display basic codes - you wouldn't need anything more than that. On the other hand, a high-end scan tool is more likely to have a bigger screen; some of them even let you view more than one kind of data at the same time. Some OBD2 scanners now also implement touchscreen technology that allows you more user control over what you view.

Extra Functionality:

While every scanner needs to be able to produce usable codes and basic diagnostics, some of them can even display various layers of data, providing graphs and charts, while storing a driver's behavior data for periods of time, too. Such additional functions give you even better insight into how a vehicle performs under particular conditions, sometimes even analyzing the driving habits of a person, too, which might include top and average speeds. Having such extra features will give vehicle owners substantial help in keeping up with how well their own car runs and functions. There are infinite uses for all this, including getting crucial information as to how a car is responding to replacement parts, repairs, and certain tweaks.

One of the most painstaking and annoying issues in any vehicle include electrical problems. An OBD2 scanner that displays incredibly detailed information might help you identify the specific problem causing your electrical failures, which would help save you time and even money. The more advanced scanners out there might even transmit data between scanners or to your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. It will give users a rather modern and streamlined way to share and analyze data as they need to.


Compatibility is something that was pointed out previously. If you're hoping to have an OBD2 scanner that you might use and pair up with a computer or even a mobile device, you need to check into that. Be sure that it not only provides you that capacity but that it is compatible with the particular technology you personally own.

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3 Most Impressive OBD2 Scanners Costing More Than $100

AutoScanner CP9150 By Actron:

It is well-known that Actron produces industry-leading OBD2 scanners, and it is clear that its CP9150 is no exception. While it may initially appear somewhat basic because of its simple screen, this model is a comprehensive, fully functional OBD2 scanner that's able to offer a great deal of data at a rapid pace. The OBD2 scanner is a piece of equipment that is also capable of working well with OBD1 cars, including those manufactured before 1990. Though folks who own late model cars may not find this to be important, those who have a fleet of different types of cars will see the importance of this.

There is no denying that the screen is uncomplicated, rendering information in simple black and white. But there is a method to this streamlined nature, and the interface is easy for everyone to use, no matter their experience level. Buttons on the device's side are used for navigation, and the layout of the menu is surprisingly intuitive.

Providing and displaying codes in short order, the CP9150 offers a speed that will truly impress. It is possible to pull specific diagnostic codes related to any concern or choose a real-time vehicle assessment and readout for any part of the car. This scanner is also equipped with an emission analysis function that permits on-the-spot checks to determine if there is a need for inspection. A typical feature for code clearing has also been integrated into this scanner.

The weight of the CP9150 comes in at approximately eight pounds, making it just the perfect size. It comes with a sturdy case for safe storage and is accompanied by the needed adapters for OBD1 cars and those required for other models and makes. Buyers will also receive a lighter adapter and an extension cord, not to mention a CD-ROM loaded with more than 5,000 codes that can be introduced into the diagnostic system. For use on later model cars, the CP9150 can be fully updated online.

Without a doubt, if you need a straightforward, user-friendly OBD2 scanner able to do critical tasks quickly and effectively, the CP9150 may be the ideal choice. It is a tool that is meant to have a long lifespan. Its capacity for rendering fast, on-point diagnostic results on many levels makes it a desirable option.

CRP129 By Launch:

The CRP129 introduced by Launch is another powerful OBD2 scanner that prides itself on the simplicity of use as well as its fully updatable nature. This device provides excellent bang for the buck and is able to produce lots of different data types in a wealth of formats on top of the standard OBD2 options. It is possible to use the CRP129 to obtain diagnostic results and scanning for a range of components, including the transmission, engine, airbags, and brakes. The tool is compatible with more than 40 vehicle manufacturers' products, both American-made cars and those produced abroad. If there is a vehicle that was not included originally, it is likely that, by using the maker's website and a USB cord, an update can remedy that concern.

The CRP129 has a screen that is organized sensibly, showing a great deal of useful information all at once. Buttons situated on the right side are used for navigation and are easy to see and operate. Boot time for the CRP129 is fast, and code readouts are similarly rapid. The information is rendered in maker-specific codes so that the diagnosis provided is always accurate and relevant.

This scanner also provides troubleshooting pointers that are DTC-specific, permitting users to reset a series of alert lights within the vehicle, such as those related to steering and braking. Information is shown in a range of formats, such as simple charts and graphs. It is also possible to show dynamically updated data at the moment it is gleaned, stream the information, and record the data for use later on.

Amazingly light, the CRP129 weights a mere pound. The device can easily be held in just one hand, and its navigation capabilities are highly responsive due to the ergonomics of the buttons. Ongoing updates are provided for the CRP129 by Launch; therefore, there is no need to worry about missing information for newer vehicle models in the future. While there is not an included case, the device itself is quite sturdy and can be stored in the car or the garage. The CRP129 is sold together with a computer as well as car cords and is compatible with Windows.

It is difficult to dispute the tremendous value the CRP129 represents, especially as it offers the full array of features that a top-end OBD2 scanner should. The easy-to-use interface and multiple modes of information tracking are ideal. In the end, the blend of attractive aspects, widespread vehicle data availability, and price point put this firmly in the group of the finest OBD2 scanners costing more than $100.

CP 9690 Elite AutoScanner By Actron:

This device is made to offer a broad range of data and code scanning convenience on a big, multicolored display that even a novice can use. Though it has a comparatively low price tag, this scanner boasts a long list of abilities for a single device. Along with diagnosis and code scanning, the tool is equipped with light reset and code clearing options. Compatible with all OBD2-designated cars, it also works with many OBD1 models. The data recording features are among this product's best features, aside from its code scanning.

This device has a screen that is in league with the largest available in a non-professional model OBD2 tool, and it displays information and graphical elements in intense color and sharp detail. As is true of Actron scanner products, the CP9690 is easy to use and has an interface that facilitates fast navigation in all situations. Those new to these tools will find it easier than they could have imagined to get through the menu choices and select the functions they require.

CodeConnect may be the most valuable aspect of the CP9690. The functionality affords the scanner the option to access more than 26 million verified, implemented fixes performed by certified mechanics. By touching a single key, CodeConnect can assess the code and scour the database to provide answers about the car's problem and what it will likely take to effect a sound repair. It is akin to having an expert in the room who can pinpoint problems and suggest the right way to address them.

Though its screen is large, the CP9690 itself is not cumbersome in size. A user can easily hold the device with a single hand while simultaneously getting coded information, and the speed of system operation is also admirable. Constant updating is possible, and it is possible to print charts and other information taken from the device on a PC.

Anyone interested in purchasing an OBD2 scanner with modern features and an interface that is not unlike a mobile phone should give some consideration to the CP9690. The clear, bright readout and its CodeConnect functionality make this tool a certain top contender. Those who are not overly impressed by the Actron CP9150 or the Launch CRP129 need to take a close look at the CP9690.

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4 Finest OBD2 Scanning Devices Below The $100 Mark

BlueDriver By Lemur Vehicle Monitors:

This model is a bit more modern in its take on OBD2 scans. Instead of utilizing the device on its own as a means to engage and display code information and key data, this tool is also a Bluetooth-capable device that sends details from the scanner directly to a tablet or smartphone of the user's choosing. This scanner is compatible with any OBD2-compliant car and also offers additional codes that mesh with a wide array of global automakers. The BlueDriver encompasses the desirable features of a costlier OBD2 scanner, including code reading, data assessment, and information storage.

The application designed to operate the BlueDriver is easily accessible for iOS and Android systems and works on phones and tablets alike. The app is identical for each system and offers an incredible amount of information on a vibrant, appealing interface that anyone can navigate. Once codes are scanned, the device produces repair reporting that details what the problem is, what is probably causing the problem, and the known fixes. These details are gleaned from a massive database that covers more than five million valid vehicle fixes.

Also, in the BlueDriver's bag of tricks are things such as live data generation and smog checking capability. This information can be reviewed in a real-time fashion, or the material can be exported to a file to be read at a later date and compared with additional reporting. Also included are misfire counts and other advanced testing outcomes.

BlueDriver's simple design and operation are things that set it apart from the crowd. First, it is not necessary to find a storage room for a large OBD2 device in its entirety, just the portion that plugs in. There is also no need to fret about cords or constant charging of the device.

It is the application that facilitates the BlueDriver's incredible ease of use. Given that the majority of people these days are comfortable with touchscreen interfaces, navigation on this tool is simple for everyone to use within minutes of first exposure. There are not many rivals that come close to the BlueDriver, considering its low price of just below the $100 mark.

The 3100i By Innova:

An ideal entry-level product for those seeking an OBD2 scanner is the 3100i by Innova. Blending necessary scanner functionality with a bright and vivid screen and a straightforward menu, this tool makes the grade in the under $100 sector of the OBD2 scanner market. This device may be used with any OBD2-compatible car and offers the same degree of effectiveness, no matter the carmaker at issue. The 3100i can read as well as clear codes while also providing a range of thorough checks together with information logging for later perusal.

The Innova 3100i has an impressively-sized screen with a range of vivid hues for easy reading. Many buttons exist beneath the screen for navigation purposes, and there are hotkey options there as well. This tool is easily handheld and is of a comfortable weight, measuring just a bit more than seven inches in height. The layout of the buttons is smart, making quick navigation simple indeed.

Innova also boasts of their RepairSolutions, an information database that gives device owners access to lots of information about the root causes of particular issues and potential repair ideas. What's more, the company has a live help hotline that is available seven days per week and is run by ASE-certified professional mechanics. The 3100i features freeze frames for preserving info when a check engine light is illuminated, alternator and battery tests, and also a test for emission readiness. It should come as no surprise that this is among the top-selling OBD2 models nationwide. Its sub-$100 price tag makes it a perfect option for those needing a traditional scanner that does the important things without breaking the bank.

 obd2 scanner buying tips

When it comes to scanners, any of the above options will certainly please even the most discriminating buyer. In the end, variables will determine which one is ultimately selected. Some of these variables are the budgetary constraints, desired interface, and interest in other features.

No matter which option is picked, you can rest assured knowing that your new scanner is of high quality. It is capable of giving you a real leg up in terms of vehicle maintenance and repair. Just do not forget to verify that your make and model is, in fact, OBD2-compliant before placing a scanner order.

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