Best OBD2 Scanner Of 2021

When you're driving down the highway, and the check engine light flashes on, your mind may race with all of the potential problems it means.

Should you immediately pull over? Do you need to go straight to the mechanic? Can you wait a little while longer and figure the problem out for yourself?

The reality is that a check engine light could actually mean a lot of different things. It could even mean multiple things at once, but your dashboard isn't going to give you the full story at once.

A scanning tool is necessary to figure out the problem and put your mind at ease. Read on to find some more information on the best OBD2 scanner out there.

What is an OBD2 Scanner?

Before taking a look at specific models, it's important to understand what an OBD2 scanner is in the first place.

Onboard diagnostics (or OBD) is basically some form of computer-operated reporting capabilities located in your car.

Introduced in the 1980s, it began as simply the check engine light that illuminates on your dashboard. Even though the check engine light doesn't give the full story, it's still a lot more information than what people got before.

By 1991, OBD1 began as a standard within the state of California. It introduced more specific codes for problems that could be diagnosed using a scanning tool.

Finally, the system advanced even more throughout the 1990s until industry engineers introduced OBD2. OBD2 is an even more advanced self-diagnostic program that is standard and widely used.

OBD2 uses a letter and a four-digit code to let users know definitely what is wrong with their vehicles.

The letters tell you what part of the vehicle is malfunctioning. For example:

  • "P" stands for the engine or transmission
  • "B" stands for the body
  • "C" stands for the chassis
  • "U" stands for the network

These letters are then followed by four digits which can tell you exactly what the problem might be.

This makes the best OBD2 scan tool a necessity if you'd like to diagnose the problem yourself. If you're wondering where a scan tool would go, though, it's important to remember that OBD2 ports are located within two feet of your steering wheel.

OBD1 ports used to be found under the hood, but with OBD2 you'll most likely be looking around the driver's side.

Another essential thing to keep in mind is that some manufacturer's, especially luxury car makers such as BMW, use specific codes.

This means that if you own certain types of vehicles, you may need to read OBD scanner reviews to find a tool that is compatible with your specific make of car.

Why Would You need an OBD2 Scanner?

Now that you have a little more information on what onboard diagnostics and OBD2 scanners are, you may wonder why you would need or want one in the first place.

Truth be told, you don't really need one at all.

If your check engine light turns on, you can head straight for your local mechanic and have them look at it.

After all, if you're not much of a vehicle expert yourself, what good is knowing the source of the problem?

Diagnosing your vehicles problem may be a time-consuming and costly endeavor anyway, though. For example, sometimes a check engine light may be simply an error on your car's OBD.

Your car's check engine light may be trying to tell you that your coolant level is low. When you pop open the hood and see that your coolant level is perfectly normal, then it's an issue with your car's onboard diagnostics.

If you were to take your car to a mechanic, you might have to:

  1. Wait a while just for the mechanic to diagnose the problem
  2. Spend the money for them just to use the OBD2 scanner themselves
  3. Find out there's nothing wrong with your car in the first place

To think that you could have just plugged a scanner in yourself and found out in mere minutes!

On top of that, if you are at all handy with vehicles, diagnosing the problem is the first and most significant step toward fixing it yourself.

If you want to save money by making repairs, you better know the source of the problem. Simply cranking the hood open and looking at your engine may not tell you anything at all.

Finding the best OBD2 scan tool will help you get to the problem faster, easier, and with plenty of peace of mind.

A Look at OBD2 Scanners in 2021

If you already understand your cars onboard diagnostics and the purpose of an OBD2 scanner, then you may have just jumped straight to this section.

It's totally understandable, and there's no need to waste any more time. After reviewing all of the OBD2 scanner reviews out there, we've compiled this list.

1. Innova 3100j

The Innova 3100j is arguably one of the most popular, DIY-friendly OBD2 scanner out there.

Covering all OBD2-compatible cars from 1996 to present, you'd be hard-pressed to find a vehicle that this tool doesn't work with.

It features a well-lit screen that's easy to read, and it covers all of your basic functionality for reading specific codes, as well as erasing ABS and SRS codes.

Through battery and alternator tests it also can check your vehicle's charging system. A freeze-frame option also allows you to see what the issue was at the exact time the check engine light turned on.

The scanner can be updated through an internet connection, and Innova is known for having solid customer support and updating their tools on a regular basis.

One of the prominent downsides to this tool is that it does not define the codes for you. Therefore, you will have to either already know the definition of the codes or look up documentation on them yourself through the internet.

Right now, the Innova 3100j is sitting around $110 through Amazon Prime. It is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive tool on this list, but considering what is offered, it's a solid deal.

2. BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional OBD2 Scan Tool for iPhone, iPad & Android

Another subcategory to consider is an OBD2 scanner compatible with your mobile devices.

There are a number of them out there, but the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional is one of the best.

You simply plug the sensor into the OBD2 input port of your car and then use the BlueDriver app to read codes, fix errors, and more all through your mobile device. This scanner tool is compatible with all Apple and Android devices and can even be used on tablets if you'd like a much bigger screen.

Sitting at just below $100 on Amazon Prime, this is an excellent idea for normal use on the go. It's as portable as your smartphone is, and chances are good that you've got that with you everywhere you go anyway.

Another huge positive to this particular tool is that it defines the codes it gives you and even suggests possible fixes.

The only reason you might not consider this tool is if you:

  • Don't own a smartphone or tablet
  • Would rather not use a smartphone or tablet to diagnose your car's issues

Other than that, it's an extremely intuitive, easy-to-use, and sound option.

3. Foxwell NT301

Foxwell makes a number of reliable OBD2 scan tools with different functions, layouts, and uses. For normal, everyday use, it's probably better to go with the Foxwell NT301 over the NT201.

The NT301 features an excellent LED screen and probably one of the best and most intuitive user interfaces on this list.

It's compact, easy to store, and is made of a tough and durable plastic that will withstand all sorts of wear and tear.

One of the best features of this tool is that it not only reads generic codes but will display several specific codes from different car manufacturers.

This is going to be especially necessary if you have a luxury car and you're worried there may be specific codes that a run-of-the-mill scanner won't be able to find.

At around $70 on Amazon Prime, it's also a fine option at an affordable price.

4. Foxwell NT624 PRO

If you are a DIY mechanic or just interested in diagnosing problems with your vehicle, look no further than the NT301 directly above.

If you're seeking the best OBD2 scanner on a more professional level, the Foxwell NT624 PRO might be worth a look.

At $260 through Amazon Prime, it's far from the cheapest tool on this list, but the speed at which this device diagnoses the make, model, and issues of a car is one of the best.

It has the same rugged plastic design as other models like the NT301 but features a bigger and more easy-to-read display.

It's also constantly kept up to date with industry expert knowledge so that when you scan a car with it, it will be able to read a wide variety of error codes.

All in all, this may not be the best option for an individual, but if you need to scan many different cars on a daily basis in a professional shop, it's a great choice.

5. Kiwitata OBD2 Scan Tool

Here's the deal with the Kiwitata OBD2 Scan Tool: it's $40 on Amazon Prime, and it works.

That's the gist of this device. It will read codes on all OBD2-compliant cars from 1996 to the present, but it comes with a small non-color screen and lacks some intuitive UI features compared to other tools on this list.

It's far from the best option for the best OBD2 scanner, but if you have a limited budget, this will still certainly get the job done.

6. Autel AL619 Autolink

Autel makes different OBD2 scan tools, but it's probably best to go with the Autel AL619 Autolink.

The biggest reason to go with this particular model is that on top of reading and clearing a wide variety of codes, it also includes ABS and SRS system diagnosis. Some of these features may not be available on other models, such as the AL519.

It may be limited on some of the vehicle metrics that it can read compared to professional-grade tools, but it certainly gets the job done and with a great screen and UI.

The Best OBD2 Scanner of 2021

That was a lot of scanners to look at, but based on a number of OBD2 scanner reviews there are a couple of choices to look at for the best ones.

Your needs may vary compared to what others are looking for in a scanning tool. It's good to break this up into four different categories.

Best Mobile OBD2 Scanner: BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional

If you want to use an OBD2 scanner on your mobile device, whether Apple or Andoird, smartphone or tablet, etc., the choice is easy. Go with the BlueDriver Bluetooth Professional.

Best Budget OBD2 Scanner: Kiwitata OBD2 Scan Tool

If your budget is limited, you're not going to get all the bells and whistles compared to other tools, but the Kiwitata is still an excellent choice.

Best Professional Grade OBD2 Scanner: Foxwell NT624 PRO

If you're looking to buy an OBD2 scanner on a professional level for an entire shop, the Foxwell NT624 PRO is a grand choice and sits at an appropriate price point.

Best Overall OBD2 Scanner: Innova 3100j

The Innova 3100j sits right in that sweet spot between amateur and professional. It's not the cheapest scanning tool on the list, but it's not the most expensive either.

It's not meant for professional use, necessarily, but it also includes a lot of features that other budget options don't.

With a great screen and one of the best user interfaces, it's an ideal choice for best all-around design.

More Tools and Accessories for Your Vehicle

When considering how to evaluate and diagnose problems with your vehicle, it can be time-consuming and expensive without the proper tools.

A scanner is a must when evaluating what's wrong, and hopefully, this list gave you an idea of the best OBD2 scanner out there.

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