Top 3 Picks Based on Experience
Best Overall Value
Perfect for beginners because of its rugged construction, ease-of-use, and ability to clear DTC.
Best for BMW, GM, Honda
Foxwell NT510 Elite
Foxwell is a trusted name in OBD scanners. NT510 is great for specific makes in order to get the exact DTC for diagnostics.
Best for Professionals
The NT809 OBD Tablet offers a wide range of professional grade features at an affordable price. Check out the full review
TL;DR: The Autel AL319 is the BEST choice for ANY vehicle owner.
- It's VERY Affordable
- Works across many brands
- Easy to use to scan and CLEAR codes
Has this happened to you? One day while driving your vehicle, you are bound to have an error code pop up on your dash. You might be tempted to head to your mechanic, but you can preemptively check your car with an OBD code reader.
An OBD Diagnostic scanner can help you pinpoint the issue if there is a problem with your emissions, engine sensor, or brakes. Modern vehicles have hundreds of sensors, from air to fuel ratio, fuel pressure, oil pressure, and more.
An OBD2 Scanner plugs into your vehicle's OBD port, typically under your steering column. For a small investment, you can quickly check what might be the issue and clear the code to help you get back on the road.
In car maintenance, getting your hands on a reliable OBD scanner is essential to ensure you won't get ripped off on any repairs.
Whether you're an expert mechanic or a DIY enthusiast, I'll share my picks for the three best OBD scanners based on my experience and expertise. So if you're looking for a way to stay ahead of any potential car problems and keep your vehicle running smoothly, keep reading.
What is an OBD Scanner?
An OBD Scanner is a tool that reads and deciphers fault codes stored in an automobile's onboard computer. These codes are referred to as diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). In addition, this powerful diagnostic device can even access real-time data from the engine, transmission, and other systems to pinpoint intricate problems quickly.
For mechanics, DIYers, and car owners alike, an OBD scanner is the ultimate tool for diagnosing automotive issues. They provide exact diagnoses of any problems in a vehicle by plugging into its onboard diagnostic port. Moreover, certain scanners also grant users the ability to reset warning lights on their dashboards after completing repairs - saving them time and money!
3 Types of Scanners
- Plugin - There are OBD adapters that plug into your port. I recommend using a standalone OBD scanner so you are not dependent on your phone and can run the reader from the port's power. This is what I suggest for your first scanner.
- Wireless Scanner or Bluetooth - Another style is the OBD port dongle. You use your phone to connect to the dongle in order to run the app to read the codes. Brands like Torque, OBD fusion, MyCarly, and Fixd offer wireless or Bluetooth dongle solutions. I personally own MyCarly, and it works great for my BMW, but you have a yearly subscription if you want to unlock it for other brands.
- Wireless Tablet - There are wireless tablet designs that are geared to more pro-consumer or professional lines. Brands like Foxwell, Autel MaxiSys, and Thinktool have features that help them compete with professional-grade brands like Snap-on at a lower price.
How much should an OBD Scanner Cost?
OBD scanners are available in a variety of prices, from as little as $20 to more than $500. The most economical OBD2 scanners attract do-it-yourselfers who only need it for basic code reading and warning light resetting. A $20 simple code reader should be able to provide generic codes or standard error codes. From there, you would look them up to see how they apply to your make and model.
TIP: There s a good chance that there is a solution online that relates to your OBD code.
High-end models offer a variety of advanced features, including real-time data logging, troubleshooting solutions, and the capacity to update software. Professional mechanics tend to favor more advanced models as they possess improved capabilities that allow for a far deeper inspection of the issue. It really comes down to your level of experience with car repairs and what you are trying to accomplish by using this diagnostic tool.
TIP: If are you getting started, then opt for an OBD scanner that fits your budget. As you gain more experience, you can always resell your old unit and use the money towards a more expensive OBS scanner with advanced functionalities like logging, graphing, and coding features.
Most budget OBD Scanners include 1 year of updates. There are some brands that offer lifetime updates. Depending on how often you change your vehicle or plan to scan, it might be advantageous to take advantage of any pricing discounts.
Overall Score of the Autel AL319
Ease of Use
#1 Autel AL319
Keypoints: Good for beginners, shade tree mechanic at a very affordable price. Easy to store and power on from the OBD port.
Price: $28 - $30 shipped
Autel's AL319 OBD scanner has been highly praised by automotive professionals and weekend mechanics alike, making it one of the best-value obd scanners on the market. I personally have owned this for at least 6 years and counting. It is my dedicated scanner of choice when scanning cars to buy.
You can read my FULL review of the Autel AL319.
My take is that this is an affordable, easy-to-use tool that will get your job done right without breaking the bank. It's great for those just starting out or for experienced professionals who want a reliable scanner.
This OBD scanner is designed for a variety of make and models, providing comprehensive diagnostics at an accessible price point. The Autel AL319 features a 2-inch colored LCD display with live data and code definitions. It is only good for reading codes and clearing codes.
It does NOT allow users to initiate third-party reprogramming and coding remotely on their smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth connection. It is a standalone unit.
Plus this diagnostic system can help diagnose and check engine lights (MIL) and reset monitors without any manual typing effort when connected to your vehicle through the OBDII port.
On top of that, the Autel AL319 is equipped with a multi-language menu display option, making it more convenient for users from different parts of the world. Its impressively small size will easily fit into any environment where portability is necessary – no bulky case required!
Whether you are a professional mechanic or a do-it-yourselfer looking for an accurate scan tool capable of doing basic functions at an economical price – the Autel AL319 should definitely be considered!
#2 Foxwell NT310
Key Points: Good for intermediate users and works for many makes and models
Price: $55- $60 shipped
Overall Score of the Foxwell NT301
Ease of Use
- Good upgrade from Autel AL319.
- Offers more Freeze Frame Data
- More OBD codes are available
- No ability to Code ECU.
The Foxwell NT301 has been designed for ultimate ease of use with a one-click I/M readiness key for quick state emissions readiness check, a TFT color display, and a built-in speaker. Its ergonomic design and rugged construction make it highly dependable and heavy-duty in the shop and on the road.
With its unique patented One-Click I/M Readiness Key, dozens of possible codes can be quickly determined. It also includes a wide range of flash codes for onboard computer systems, covering most makes & models from 1996 on up. Additionally, it works on monitoring Oxygen Sensor Tests, On Board Monitor Tests, Evaporative System Tests, and Vehicle Information. This is a step up from the Autel AL319.
In addition to engine trouble codes, the NT301 has the ability to read data stream - shows live sensor data in text & graph format, and views freeze frame data readings without losing data when the ignition is switched off. The unit also supports 3 modes of OBD2 diagnostic tools: Read Codes, Clear Codes as well as Live Data Stream Viewer & displays Manufacturer Specific Definition with Database built into memory (no internet connections required).
However, there is limited functionality since it cannot code batteries or test actuators.
It works exceptionally well with all United States Domestic, Asian & European vehicles (commercials included). It is proven to perform very accurate trouble code shootouts via higher resolution at a wider range than other legacy scanners due to its updates every few days, with more possible codes being added.
Overall this is an excellent device given its user-friendly design that comes up with updates almost every other day making it very reliable for OBD and engine codes that are supported by Foxwell NT301's increasing database.
Key Points: Great for BMW Owners and Mini. Other units coded specific brands.
Price: $155 - $199 (Depending on Specific Make)
Overall Score of the Foxwell NT510 Elite
Ease of Use
- Brand-specific codes and provides greater detail for specific makes and models
- Available for Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mini, GM, Audi
- Brand Specific - Only be used with one brand per unit.
- A bit costly in relation to other OBS scanners
You can read my FULL review on the Foxwell NT510 Elite OBD Scanner.
The FOXWELL NT510 scanner is definitely one of the best obd scanners you can get for BMW and Mini vehicles, both old and new. It offers comprehensive diagnostics and special functions for BMW and Mini vehicles like oil service reset, brake pad reset, and battery registration. It also comes with a 2-year free update policy, allowing it to stay up to date.
I personally own two of these units that I keep in my BMWs. These are useful since they are quick to plugin and very responsive. The screen is great, and the reader provides specific codes for modules.
This full-featured scan tool can provide users with real-time troubleshooting data, including live data streams from engine parameters such as RPM, vehicle speed, and fuel pressure. The NT510 offers dynamic diagnostic inputs from ABS and SRS/Airbag systems while providing quick readouts on common trouble codes. This scanner also supports specialized functions such as resetting the oil light or conditioning new brake pads without being intrusive on the vehicle ECU. You can also reset the SRS light.
I believe it can also provide transmission codes and adaptations. It does what some expensive scanners might do. The key difference is that the NT510 provides manufacturer-specific codes.
Key Points: Professional Grade Bi-directional OBD Scanner
Style: Wireless Tablet
Price: $399 - $500
Overall Score of the Foxwell NT809
Ease of Use
- Large Touchscreen Universal on all makes and models. Wifi connection.
- 30 Service reset functions - Oil, Brakes, ABS codes
- Bi-Directional testing for servos, actuators
- Battery Registration
- 3 years of support for software update
- Most expensive
- Does not code TPMS or Keys
The Foxwell NT809 provides a wide array of functions for any professional automotive scanner.
As a car owner, you want to choose the best OBD scanner for your car to accurately diagnose issues and keep it running smoothly. The FOXWELL NT 809 is a great choice for home mechanics and car owners who have some experience with scanning codes.
The FOXWELL NT 809 is a multi-system diagnosis device that covers both obd2 diagnostic functions as well as additional advanced functions found in higher-end professional scanners. It offers live data graphing to give you an immediate view of the condition of multiple vehicle systems, while the user interface is convenient and intuitive.
This scanner allows professionals and advanced-level users to read trouble codes in all major systems as well as reset various system components such as ABS brakes (ABS) (SRS), oil service resetting, and electronic parking brake resetting. It offers highly advanced diagnostic tests for MDT (motorized diagnostic tester) for airbags (SRS), brakes/closed circuit alternate current Systems (ABS).
The scan tool supports all 10 test modes of the OBD II standard, such as Live Data Streaming or Visual Graphs or Record & Playback Functions which allow technicians to save time troubleshooting almost any car problem by creating detailed reports based on readings taken directly from the vehicle itself - instead of relying strictly on symptoms reported by customers.
With this scan tool, you can also carry out bi-directional control tests on most vehicles which makes it ideal for more complex programming scenarios. Note: this does not do like ECU reflashing or key fob programming tasks since that requires specific commands to be sent between devices in order for them to function properly.
If you're looking for the perfect OBD scanner to diagnose and repair your car's issues, my list of top 3 products on the market is here to help.
I totally get there are tons of options, and it can be difficult to decide which one is ideal for you - regardless if you have plenty of experience or just started off as a mechanic. That's why I compiled my personal favorite picks! Get ready to find something within budget and perfectly suited for your skillset - happy shopping!
Whether you are a competent mechanic or a backyard mechanic, I recommend taking a look at all three options one more time!