Finding a cheap car diagnostic tool is a great way to reduce your car repair bills, allowing a car owner to diagnose some simple problems at home. But, if you’re a new mechanic, some of the options can seem too technical. Here, we explain exactly what an OBD2 scanner is and what it does, and have reviewed some of the best budget OBD2 scanners on the market today, at a low price.
These cheap OBD2 scanners are easy to read and will help mechanics of all abilities learn more about error codes and how to fix them – car problems will be a thing of the past! Our scanner reviews below will point you in the right direction. Code reading can be a bit tricky at first, but an OBD car doctor makes it easy – all the information needed can easily be accessed.
What is an obd2 scanner Exactly?
Before picking out a cheap engine code reader, you might be wondering what exactly it is and what it is used for. Essentially, an on board diagnostics scanner reads the codes which activate the check engine light, allowing mechanics and car owners to diagnose the fault. The scanner gives a code made from letters and numbers which can be decoded to show exactly what the problem is, and they can also be used to tune the car’s performance.
Typical Cost of obd2 scanner
These scanners vary in price greatly depending on the features they have. In our guide, they range from around $20 for basic models to over $200 for the more high-end picks. The most expensive ones can cost upwards of $2000, so are best for professional users.
Considerations Choosing a good but cheap obd2 scanner
There are a few important factors to keep in mind when choosing one of these scanners. First and foremost, the features the scanner has should be considered. If you want to just check and clear codes, any of the below will be fine. However, if you want to perform some more advanced features, be sure these are included on the chosen scanner before purchasing. Also, check how it connects. If Wi Fi or Bluetooth are required, ensure you have a compatible device. Bluetooth scanners are very convenient for connecting to a phone for continuous monitoring. Think about how easy the chosen scanner is to use, too. If you are new to diagnosing and repairing faults, ensure you pick one which is simple and without too many fancy features.
You might also want to consider different accessories for your car, such as the best budget car subwoofers!
12 Best Budget OBD2 scanner (under $100)
Now you know more about finding a cheap car scanner, we have picked out 12 of the best OBD2 scanners on the market today. You’re sure to find the best scanner here for your needs in our buying guide below.
1. Ysding OBD II
Connectivity: X | Weight: X | Key Features: X
The first best obd2 scanner for the money that we have picked out is easy to use and is one of the lowest-priced on our list. It is compatible with most US cars from 1996 onwards, and European and Asian cars from 2000 onwards. The scanner is useful for figuring out why the MIL is on, and can also be used to clear the codes and turn the check engine light off. The backlit, 2.4″ LCD can be adjusted in brightness and contrast to ensure it is always easy to see. It can be used in imperial or metric measurements and there are various languages to choose from too.
2. Autophix Enhanced OM126P
The next best cheap car code reader we have picked out is from Autophix and it works on most vehicles and has ten different languages. There is a silicone keypad to navigate the menu and the true-color LCD screen clearly shows the result of the test. Lots of different information about the car can be obtained from this OBDII scan tool, and results can be printed out for future reference.
3. Autophix 3210 Bluetooth OBD2
This OBD scanner uses Bluetooth to download the results to a smartphone for later review, and it works in 9 languages. It can clear fault codes easily, and tells drivers how severe their problem is. This scan tool can also be used to check the battery, which is especially useful during the winter – you won’t have to be surprised by a car that won’t start on a cold day. The tool not only diagnoses faults, but also provides possible solutions to them. It’s possible to have it continually monitoring the car in case a fault comes up, and it’s also possible to set up a DIY dashboard to monitor stats like RPM and ECT.
4. Launch CR319
Launch has made a good cheap OBD2 scanner that performs all the features of a pricer model. It can be used to diagnose problems within seconds, and it even comes with a 3-year warranty so you can be sure it is built to last. There are ten different functions on this model, including reading and erasing codes, checking the vehicle’s emissions, and other information about the vehicle. It works on most 12V gasoline cars, but isn’t compatible with diesel or electric vehicles. A library is built in to these scan tools, with access to over 3000 code meanings, so it can be used to troubleshoot just about any engine fault codes the car might have. It’s very easy to use, even to those who have never used such a tool before.
5. JDIAG YA101
The next best budget scan tool we have works in a similar way to the models above and is also priced very reasonably. Codes can be read in just four seconds, but it should be noted that it can’t be used on 24V trucks, only 12V cars or small trucks. After reading the code, you will find the possible cause of the problem listed, and you can also use this tool to check emissions in order to pass the smog test. The scan tools can be connected to a laptop via USB cable, so it’s possible to upload the data obtained from the car for easy reference or even for printing. The buttons on this model are made from silicone for maximum durability and they’re easy to press. The machine itself is ribbed on the sides so it’s easy to grip, and the cable is thick and is over 30 inches long.
6. Nonda ZUS
The next best low cost OBD2 scanner we have picked out works slightly differently from those outlined above. It connects to a cellphone via Bluetooth, and requires an app to be downloaded in order to monitor the dashboard in real-time, or to check the trouble codes. This tool will pay for itself in the first use, as taking the car to the mechanic will usually cost at least double what the device costs. These OBD2 scanners are made from very durable material that can withstand very high temperatures. These scan tools are easy to install and easy to use to stream real-time data to your smartphone.
7. BlueDriver Bluetooth Scanner Pro
If you have a check engine light displaying in the car, this BlueDriver Bluetooth device is just what you need. The OBDII scan tool is easy to use and is compatible with both the Apple and Android operating system, and is officially licensed for both types of device. Because it connects to a tablet or a smartphone, there are many additional benefits. For example, the app is updated for free, and live data is graphed automatically. There is a huge database that will match the make and model of your car with the problem – there are over 30 million fixes included, so you can be sure your problem will be in there somewhere! This device can pick up on trouble codes missed by many other models – even those usually only available to professionals. This tool works on many different models from various car manufacturers and can be used to retrieve data about the vehicle’s specs and maintenance schedules, so it can always be kept in the best possible condition.
8. Innova 3160S
Our next best inexpensive OBD2 scanner has some great functions whether you have a check engine light showing, or want to look at some vital stats such as checking the brakes or the transmission temperature. Unlike most of the previous OBD2 scanners, this one can be used to check battery problems on hybrid vehicles, such as charging issues. It’s also possible to use this tool to obtain live data on the status of the oil. It can be used to check the oil level and life, ideal knowledge when it comes to a service on the vehicle. The device uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to a smart device for continual monitoring. In the app, you can keep an eye out for any recalls related to your vehicle, and also order parts required for a repair. It’s also possible to keep a maintenance schedule so work on the vehicle is never overdue.
9. FIXD OBD2 Professional
If you’re looking for the best cheap scan tool with Bluetooth, this one from FIXD is worth considering. Like most others, it’s used to diagnose the cause of a check engine light, but it can also show how severe the problem is. Furthermore, it can be used to turn the fault light off. This device can also be used to obtain an estimated cost of the repair, to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the mechanic. The FIXD can access more than 10,000 codes from different manufacturers and can even help diagnose problems with airbags, transmission, and ABS. There’s the option to upgrade to a premium version of the app which will enable you to access unlimited calls to a mechanic, and this works as a monthly subscription service.
10. TT Topdon TD309
If you’re looking for the best and reasonable price for a OBD2 vehicle scanner, this model is definitely worth considering. It can detect most causes of the check engine light illuminating, clear codes to turn the light off, and provide live data. The LCD display is backlit so it’s easy to read, and it works in different languages including French, Spanish, and Dutch. You can use this device to check the VIN number and other information about the car at your convenience. The keys on these OBD2 scanners are made from ABS so they’re easy to press on, and the device itself is small and easy to carry around. It’s very budget-friendly and is sure to pay for itself after just one use.
The Autel Autolink is one of the best selling OBD2 scanners and it comes at an excellent price point. It’s really easy to install – simply plug and play. It has a color screen like many other code readers and is perfect for all your car diagnostics trouble. There are seven different languages to choose from and it works most post-1996 vehicles. Many user-friendly features can be found on this device including an LED indicator and a built-in speaker. Furthermore, the cable is long enough so the device is easy to use, but it won’t get in the way either. Batteries aren’t required, with the device running from the power of the car’s battery instead. You can trust this OBD II to last as it comes with a 12 month warranty and free software updates for life.
Closing our guide to the best OBD2 scanners and vehicle code readers we have this pick from Foxwell. This OBD II has ten different modes, so it’s ideal for most needs. It reads and erases fault codes, shows live data as text and graphs, and has an O2 sensor. In fact, you can monitor O2 live which is ideal for diagnosing a misfire. It works on 12V vehicles including SUVs and minivans. This OBD II is dust-proof so it’s more long-lasting and durable than some other models. Unlike some other code readers, this one can be used to check readiness for smog check testing, so you can be sure the vehicle will pass before the test takes place. These scan tools can also store results for later review and can display important information such as the vehicle identification number and CVN. After reading fault codes with this scanner, you will be able to access a troubleshooter with a list of possible fixes.
Best Affordable OBD2 Scanner
After considering many different options, we have picked out the best OBD2 scanner of all. The one which stands out is the Autel Autolink, #11 above. It is one of the best-selling OBD II tools and is compatible with many vehicles and in many languages, so it’s accessible to almost everyone. It’s easy to read and use and has a large, color screen LCD. There are loads of user-friendly features to make this one of our favorites overall.
Cheapest OBD2 Scanner Available
If you are looking for a very cheap OBD II, the Launch (#4 on our list) is one of the lowest-priced on the market today. It still offers many of the functions and features of a more expensive model, with access to more than 3000 codes. It even comes with a 3-year warranty, so it’s built to last despite the very low price tag. It’s easy to use, even for new and amateur mechanics and has ten different functions so it’s suitable for many different needs.
If you’re looking to splash out on a higher-end model, the very best OBD2 scanners available, we recommend purchasing the BlueDriver app scanner, which was #7 in our reviews. It works via Bluetooth diagnostic and is compatible with most devices, such as Apple or Android operating systems. The database includes a massive number of possible fixes and code definitions, so it’s sure to find a solution to every problem.
It can be used to monitor the maintenance schedule of the vehicle and can pick up on faults not detected by some of the cheaper models. The app is regularly updated for free, so you can be sure it’s always running the latest version.
Considerations Choosing OBD2 Scanners
There are a few features to look out for when choosing scan tools. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
The OBD is built-in to the vehicle’s diagnostic system and it aims to tell the driver when there is a technical fault with the vehicle. OBD2 scanners connect to the diagnostic system in order to ready the error codes and find out what the issue is, without having to remove parts from the car.
The OBD 2 system comes as standard in modern vehicles after it was introduced in California in 1996.
The result of the scan probably won’t mean much unless you use a program to convert the result into something more meaningful.
This helps differentiate between response and request messages.
Here, length refers to the number of bytes of data.
Modes identify the trouble codes and are used to show freeze frame data.
Older cars don’t support PIDs, but they are used to give a description of each mode.
Which OBD2 do You Need?
Depending on your level of experience and the type of work you wish to do on the car, the best OBD2 scanners for your needs will vary.
OBD2 Scanners/Code Readers
This type simply read and clear fault codes and are used to find out which issue is causing the malfunction indicator lamp to illuminate.
OBD2 Data Loggers
These OBD2 scanners differ from code readers in that they log data and store it to an SD card. So, they’re ideal for checking for patterns before and after the error code occurred. Some can help maintain maximum fuel efficiency and promote safer driving.
OBD2 Data interfaces
Finally, these are perhaps the best OBD2 scanners as they give live data on the display so performance can be monitored in real-time when driving. Health checks are also included on certain models.