It took us over 50 hours to research and test different diagnostic scan tools in order to find the best one for most people, and Autel DS708, a OBDII scanner with specialized support for a wide variety of American, European and Asian cars, outdid other tools in the competition with outstanding performance and an affordable price.
With a price that is significantly lower than any other professional-grade diagnostic scan tool, Autel DS708 will do a deep scan of over 40 different vehicle makes, including OBDII and advanced diagnostic protocols, and easily clear diagnostic trouble codes on your car. Autel DS708 is easy to use and makes diagnostics understandable to novices, but offers functions of a professional level.
Launch X431 V+ is a professional diagnostic scan tool which has state of the art diagnostics system, and it can be used on over 220 different models of cars and 69 different brands. It comes with a 10” tablet, Bluetooth dongle and 20 connection cables, making it easy to diagnose a wide variety of cars, and efficiently fix multitude of problems.
This Bluetooth diagnostic scan tool from BAFX is a great way to read and clear codes on your car, but, it is only compatible with Android devices, and it doesn’t come with its own app, so you will have to rely on a 3rd party app. However, considering its price, BAFX Products 34t5 is a reliable diagnostic scan tool for people with limited budget.
How can diagnostic scan tool help you?
Diagnostic scan tool enable your car to run smoothly. By scanning your car for faults and potential problems, diagnostic scan tools give you the insight into your car’s OBD system and help you diagnose the problem and solve it, avoiding an expensive visit to a mechanic.
Almost every driver was, at one time or another, faced with dreadfully annoying light that prompts us to “check the engine”. The cryptic warning, however, doesn’t imply what should we check, or what could be the problem with our car, forcing us to have a mechanic look at it, which isn’t always easy on the budget.
In the early stages, most diagnostic scan tools could only read the code of the fault, without any further clarification for the driver as to what exactly the problem is. Nowadays, diagnostic scan tools have evolved greatly, so you can expect to both read and clear codes, and, depending on the model, suggest a method of repair, or even enable you to customize your vehicle’s default system settings. Most average diagnostic scan tools on the market cost same as what mechanic would ask for diagnostic, sometimes even less, and by buying your on diagnostic scan tool, you’ll save money both immediately and in the long run.
But, with a proper diagnostic scan tool, you won’t be only saving money on unnecessary visits to a mechanic, it can be a real life-saver in cases when you’re not around one, and need to rely on your own skills to get the car going.
Having a diagnostic scan tool at hand could especially be useful when traveling, according to Huffington Post, and we can’t agree more. The worst-case scenario on a road trip is to be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, and diagnostic scan tool could help prevent unpleasant situations like this, especially ones that use wireless connection, like Bluetooth, to monitor your car’s health and detect potential problems.
It’s really important to mention just how much diagnostic scan tool can help you with, and statistics indicate it will be doing a lot more than keeping money in your pocket. According to a study published in to Global Journal on Technology e can look forward to new strategies, that will help minimize number of accidents due to vehicle faults, through managing data from diagnostic scan tools. Engineers are recognizing the endless possibilities of diagnostic scan tools, but you don’t have to look ahead to feel the benefits now.
Whether you want to save money or just want to have a reliable scan tool to monitor your car’s overall state, a good diagnostic scan tool is the best possible investment.
Is my car compatible with diagnostic scan tools?
Cars manufactured in 1996 for American market and in the years after that are equipped with OBDII software, or On-Board Diagnostic, which allows access to your vehicle’s on-board computer. So, if you own a car that is not older than 20 years, you can use diagnostic scan tool to check for faults and fix problems with your engine, or depending on the model of the car, even problems with some other components of your car.
Not all the cars are the same, as well as diagnostic scan tools. Some cars will have more components covered with their OBDII software, and some will only cover engine. Some cars can even be customized with proper diagnostic scan tool, which, according to The New York Times, can help you increase or limit speed, and generally teak your car’s performance so it would suit your needs perfectly.
You might not be able to customize your car’s settings if it’s not a supported model, but, one thing’s for sure- all cars manufactured after 1996 for American market are compatible with diagnostic scan tools, even if only to read and clear engine codes.
How we tested
After thorough research, we chose 10 diagnostic scan tools to test and to try and find the best diagnostic scan tool for most people. It took us over 50 hours to test them all on several different car models, in order to truly see how well they work and which one of them offers most for their value. In order to check if these diagnostic scan tools really deliver what they promise to, we consulted four mechanics to confirm the validity of their performance.
Of course, when we tested different diagnostic scan tools, we were mostly interested in their diagnostic capabilities. The more the tool offered, the better- so any additional feature besides reading and clearing codes was a welcome one, and could only improve our rating. Diagnostic scan tools that offered explanation of the codes, or suggested fixes and repairs for problems we encountered were favored, since they significantly improved do-it-yourself diagnostics and had the potential to save a lot of money that would be wasted on a mechanic.
Another important quality was the ease of use. Every diagnostic scan tool only requires to be plugged in your OBDII socket in the dashboard, but, some of them have cables and need to be handheld, while other models are in a form of a small dangle, that you can just plug in and leave in for as long as you want to. Additionally, diagnostic scan tools who only read codes, without offering an explanation were really hard to use- it required a lot of work to find the meaning of the codes manually, while other models offered the explanation on the spot.
In addition to OBDII diagnostics, some of the diagnostic scan tools we tested offer advanced diagnostics, like ABS, SRS, airbag or transmission codes, and it was a big bonus- every scan tool that can do enhanced diagnostics accurately in addition to OBDII is a good buy.
Our pick: Autel DS708
If you need a diagnostic scan tool for both professional and personal use, Autel DS708 is really the best the market has to offer. The price is much lower than any of the other professional-grade models we tested, but this diagnostic scan tool is the one that offers most value for its price.
Autel DS708 proved that you can get professional features, unparalleled functions and outstanding performance, and still save some money.
This diagnostic scan tool has deep vehicle system coverage for all vehicles, and over 40 specific ones for American, European and Asian cars. This means that you can use Autel DS708 ith almost any car, and enjoy specifically customized diagnostics for over 40 different vehicle makes. But, this diagnostic scan tool isn’t only outperforming other tools we tested when it comes to reading and clearing diagnostic trouble codes, it also has a number of additional features that only add to its appeal. It also displays live data text, graph and analog, making it really easy to review and analyze it, and when it’s displayed on large color display, it only makes it so much more convenient. In addition to live data, you can do ECU programming with this diagnostic scan tool, and, with its vehicle specific support, it makes it so much easier to perform a complete service of your car with just one diagnostic scan tool. Autel DS708 5 OBDII protocols and 10 test modes, which makes it truly unchallenged when it comes to functions and features that it offers to user.
It is really easy to use, with 7” TFT touch screen color display and special ergonomic design of the case, but the perks of using this diagnostic scan tool don’t stop there. It is also equipped with Wi-Fi, which allows remote access and easy Internet browsing for additional info, if you happen to need it. Autel DS708 comes not only with one cable, but a box full of different ones with a wide range of pins, that grant you the access to all vehicles, without having to worry your cable won’t be compatible. If you want to have a diagnostic scan tool that can bring your business to another level and make your work much easier, or just want to have the best possible diagnostic scan tool for your personal use, look no further than Autel DS708.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
When it comes to performance, Autel DS708 really excels, so at first, it was very hard to find anything that could pose a problem to potential users of this diagnostic scan tool.
However, it could be important to note one thing that might concern some people. Autel DS708 has Wi-Fi not only to makes the use of this diagnostic scan tool more convenient, but to download software updates and upgrades, too. But, these updates are available for free only the first year after the purchase, and after that, if you want to update your software, you’ll have to pay an annual fee, which costs almost as Autel DS708 itself.
But, even though it’s the case with most professional-grade diagnostic scan tools, annual fee is something you don’t have to pay for after the first year, if you don’t think you have the need for it. You can still use your Autel DS708 as before, only you won’t have newest updates available, which is not that big of a problem, especially if you’re buying Autel DS708 for personal use.
The step-up pick: Launch X431 V+
Launch X431 V+
Considered state of the art amongst diagnostic scan tool, Launch X431 V+ is truly a marvel to work with. Just one look at this combo of simple functionality and latest technology trends makes it easy to understand why this diagnostic scan tool is worth the extra money.
Launch X431 V+ combines the best diagnostic scan tools have to offer in one package. With a 10” touch screen tablet that runs on Android 5.1 comes a Bluetooth dongle which allows remote diagnostics, since you won’t have to use tool that is directly connected to the dashboard. You can easily access info thorough a beautifully designed interface on specially designed tablet, and diagnose over 69 car brands and 220 car models that Launch X431 V+ supports, effortlessly.
This diagnostic scan tool comes with 14 different OBDII connection cables and 6 non-OBDII ones, so it’s guaranteed you’ll be able to diagnose a wide variety of different car models with Launch X431 V+.
With a level of support this high, you won’t have any problem diagnosing trouble codes and clearing them, but, unfortunately, this diagnostic scan tool doesn’t offer vehicle customization, but it does have some special functions (BMW idle study, BMW Injection rate adjustment, Nissan matching key etc.).
But, outstanding performance and great compatibility are not the only thing that make this diagnostic scan tool extraordinary. Launch X431 V+ is a professional diagnostic scan tool, and it certainly looks the part. It has a modern, convenient design and tablet and wireless connection comes with perks that are not only of aesthetic value- you can now diagnose cars and multitask, since you don’t have to be stuck at the vehicle’s dashboard. The tablet that comes as a part of this set can be used as a regular laptop, it even has Wi-Fi and a 5-megapixel camera, so you can photograph any damage or problem that has you stumped and send it to a colleague for a consult, or share a successfully solved problem with a friend. Even though Launch X431 V+ is perfect for professionals, it’s also an amazing tool to have even if you’re not a mechanic. It has the most advanced support for a wide variety of cars, and it is fast and reliable in diagnosing and repairing problems, so it’s definitely worth investing a bit more in a diagnostic scan tool such as Launch X431 V+.
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The budget pick: BAFX Products 34t5
BAFX Products 34t5
If you have a limited budget, but still want a reliable diagnostic scan tool to read and clear codes on your car, BAFX Products 34t5 can be the answer to your prayers. When it comes to reading and clearing codes, this diagnostic tool performs great, but, unfortunately, that’s mostly what it does.
BAFX Products 34t5 is using Bluetooth connection to display data on your Android smartphone or tablet. It doesn’t come with an app of its own, so you’ll have to find a 3rd party app which is compatible (most people recommend Torque), and you won’t be able to use this diagnostic scan tool with iOS devices. Even though finding the right app might be a little frustrating, the basic principle is still simple- you plug in the dongle and sync it with the app, and you’re ready to go.
For all intents and purposes, BAFX Products 34t5 is designed to be used for reading and clearing basic OBDII fault codes, and it really does what it promises to do. With a 2-year warranty, you can’t go wrong, especially when you consider its incredibly low price.
Considering its price, we didn’t expect much from this diagnostic scan tool, but it really excels in basic functions. It can’t do anything more than read and clear your OBDII codes, but, for some people, that’s all they need done. If you have a pesky check engine light you want to get rid of quickly, this diagnostic scan tool will work for you beautifully. However, if you want advanced functionality, you won’t be satisfied with this diagnostic tool.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool for OBD1 vehicles
As we mentioned, most of the diagnostic scan tools we tested are compatible with OBDII vehicles only, but Innova 3120 works with OBD1 vehicles, too. If you have a car which was manufactured before 1996, you might find yourself feeling doomed to spend money on a mechanic, but with this diagnostic scan tool, that can change. If you own one of the more popular OBD1 vehicles, you can use Innova 3120 to read and clear diagnostic codes.
The supported OBD1 models are:
General Motors- all models manufactured from 1982-1993, and some 1994-1995 models
Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles- 1983-1995 models with EEC-IV systems
Toyota and Lexus vehicles- models produced from 1991-1995
Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth vehicles-manufactured from 1984-1995
Jeep vehicles- made from 1993-1995
In addition to this specific OBD1 models, Innova 3120 can be used on all OBDII vehicles, even hybrids, which is perfect if you have more than one car, since you can use it on many, many different cars.
It is a handheld diagnostic scan tool, so you’ll need to to plug it to a computer after the scan for more detailed description of the codes. The small screen on Innova 3120 shows the definition of the code, but, if you want to see more, you’ll need to install software on your PC, that comes with it. You’ll also gain free basic repair report through this software, but more comprehensive ones need to be purchased additionally.
All in all, if you need to run diagnostic on an older, OBD1 vehicle, Innova 3120 can be irreplaceable for you.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool with Bluetooth
BlueDriver is much more affordable then some professional-grade diagnostic scan tools, but it offers a lot more than the price may suggest.
Same as our budget pick, it’s a diagnostic scan tool in a form of a Bluetooth dongle, which makes it really easy to use it- just plug it in your OBDII socket and access the information through your tablet or smartphone, using The BlueDriver free app, which is officially certified for both iOS and Android devices. This is a diagnostic scan tool that is easy to use even for the most inexperienced drivers, but the performance it offers is in range with expensive, professional diagnostic scan tools mechanics use in their shops.
With BlueDriver, you can read and clear diagnostic trouble codes- both the OBDII ones (like engine codes) and the enhanced, manufacturer-specific codes (such as ABS, transmission and airbag codes). However, same as all models of diagnostic scan tool, enhanced diagnostic codes are available for specific manufacturers only- in BlueDriver’s case it’s General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota.
In addition to reading and clearing codes, BlueDriver comes with a myriad of useful features, such as emissions test, mode 6, freeze frame or live data, but the feature we absolutely loved the most is their repair report function. It can generate a repair report for any diagnostic trouble code, and it consists of code definition, top recommended fix and other suggested fixes that worked for some people. With a database of over 4.3 million vehicle-specific fixes and repairs, it is guaranteed you’ll be able to find the right one for your car. That way, you will truly know if the repair should be left to a mechanic, or is it something you can do yourself, and save a significant amount of money in the process.
With so many useful features, BlueDriver practically pay itself off just with checking and clearing the codes, not to mention the other options that allow you to get deeper insight in your car’s health and solve problems on your own.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool with Wi-Fi
If you prefer to use Wi-Fi connection with your diagnostic scan tool, Foseal’s diagnostic scan tool is the best choice.
It’s a Wi-Fi dongle that you plug into the OBDII socket in your car, and connect it to your tablet or phone. It supports both iOS and Android devices, as well as Windows-based ones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have its own app, so you’ll have to rely on 3rd party apps, and the most popular ones for iOS and Android cost from the minimum.
With this diagnostic scan tool you can read and clear OBDII codes, as well as read some of the manufacturer-specific codes, but it all depends on the model of the car.
It’s easy to use and you can choose the app which it works through, so you actually have more options when it comes to diagnostic scan tool’s interface. It’s not a tool that has many advanced features, but for basic reading and clearing codes, Foseal Wifi does a great job in no time.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool for ABS/SRS codes
Autel AL619 AutoLink
If you’re having problems with ABS or SRS codes, Autel AL619 AutoLink is the right tool for you. In addition to reading and clearing OBDII codes as most of the diagnostic tools on the market, Autel Al619 is indispensable if you have problems with ABS/SRS system diagnosis.
It is a handheld diagnostic tool, but you can easily see code definitions on its TFT color display. It is quite easy to use, and the ability to update its database over the internet makes this diagnostic tool really appealing, since you won’t have to worry it will become outdated.
With this diagnostic scan tool, you can check for OBDII codes and clear them, retrieve generic, manufacturer-specific and pending codes, but more importantly, it’s does a great job ith reading and clearing ABS/SRS codes. Keep in mind, not all of the vehicles will have these options available in their own computer, especially when it comes to SRS codes, but the compatibility of Autel AL619 is still rather impressive. We were able to eliminate the irritating both SRS and ABS warning lights in matter of seconds, which is a tremendous saving all by itself, comparing the expensive prices mechanics set for tasks like this.
It’s a reliable diagnostic scan tool for OBDII codes, but what makes this tool really special is its ability to manage ABS and SRS codes, and out of all the diagnostic scan tools we tested, Autel AL619 AutoLink had the best compatibility with most cars.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool for Heavy-Duty Trucks
When it comes to trucks, you will need a special diagnostic scan tool, and FCar F502 is a great tool with a competitive price.
It supports heavy-duty trucks with J1939 and J1708 protocol, so it is compatible with a variety of different diesel trucks. FCar F502 is a handheld diagnostic scan tool, and it comes with two different cables, that enable the driver to use this diagnostic scan tool in trucks with both diesel 6PIN and diesel 9PIN socket.
When it comes to diagnostic performance, this tool will show you the codes (without their definition, but you can look them up online) and allow you to clear them. It can also scan ECU components for Cummins, Bosch and Delphi trucks, which is an additional bonus to an already outstanding performance. If you’re a trucker, you know how much trouble you can avoid with the proper tool on the road, and FCar F502 Sport can be a real life-saver, and minimize the costs and effort needed to diagnose and solve problems with your truck.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool for Japanese Cars
When it comes to Japanese cars, some of them could be compatible with standard diagnostic scan tools due to their use of OBDII system, but Autophix OM500 covers the ones that use JOBD system, too.
Even though some of the diagnostic scan tools we tested support most of the more popular Japanese cars, Autophix OM500 supports the most of them, and easily reads and clears codes on these vehicles.
This incredibly small handheld diagnostic scan tools reads and clears generic, pending and manufacturer-specific codes, and it supports a wide range of OBII vehicles. If you own a Subaru, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Daihatsu, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota or a Honda, this diagnostic scan tool ill make sure you’ll be able to access the diagnostic trouble codes on your vehicle, and read and clear them successfully.
Some of the Japanese models use Japanese on-board diagnostic system, which makes them incompatible with standard diagnostic scan tools made for OBDII. Autophix OM500 is one of the rare diagnostic scan tools that supports JOBD as well as OBDII, and it really does a great job.
Best Diagnostic Scan Tool for European Cars
Autel MaxiScan MS300
Most of the diagnostic scan tools we tested support European made cars, but we were surprised how much cars Autel MaxiScan MS300 is compatible with.
Even though it’s really cheap, this diagnostic tool delivers great performance. It supports CAN and other OBDII protocols, and even Mode 9 on cars manufactured after 2002. With this useful little tool you’ll be able to check your diagnostic trouble codes and clear them, and save a lot of money on check-ups with the mechanics. In addition to European cars, it supports American and Asian cars as well, as long as they have OBDII system.
This diagnostic scan is really small and easy to use, it doesn’t require any connectivity- you just plug it in your OBDII port and read the code definition on the small screen, and clear them with a push of a button.
If you need a basic diagnostic tool that will or with most European cars, you can rely on Autel MaxiScan MS300.
Wrapping it up
If you want your car to run smoothly and without any problems, but save money on visits to a mechanic, diagnostic scan tool is the perfect solution.
For first-class vehicle diagnostics, Autel DS708 offers professional-grade performance for an affordable price, and a great performance to value ratio is what makes it best for most people. If you’re willing to spend some extra money, Launch X431 V+ offers state of the art system that includes 10” tablet, Bluetooth dangle and over 20 different connection cables, in addition to outstanding performance. In case you’re on tight budget, BAFX Products 34t5 is an incredibly cheap, but reliable tool to help you clear diagnostic trouble codes.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.