There are a lot of car diagnostic and automotive scan tools (as well as other possibilities) on the market to help you make your own car diagnosis. Our team of experts shortlisted 25 devices created a list of the Top 10 best car diagnostic tools.

Who wouldn’t like to better be able to understand their vehicle? Especially when there are faults or problems, you always must go to a garage and that gets expensive. So, it would be much more convenient if you could do the diagnosis of your car yourself.

All of today’s cars are equipped with extensive electronics. Therefore, with the appropriate car diagnostic tool, you can read out and evaluate the data yourself. We have looked at many of these devices to help you decide which is the best car diagnostic tool for you to purchase!

Different Ways to Diagnose Your Car

diagnostics tools

To check your car thoroughly, there are essentially three different options. Firstly, you can use a mobile app. Secondly, you can also use software that is installed on your own laptop/tablet. Lastly, you can buy a standalone diagnostic tool. Each of these possibilities has its advantages and disadvantages and is suitable for different target groups. Here is a short overview:

Standalone diagnostic tool Smartphone App Software

Advantages 

  • Professional equipment
  • Often suitable for all manufacturers
  • External device

Advantages 

  • Affordable
  • Convenient to carry around
  • Always up-to-date

Advantages 

  • You can use your own computer
  • Often extensive features

Disadvantages

  • Expensive

Disadvantages

  • Not as in-depth

Disadvantages

  • Updates often cost extra

Anyone who sells used cars or has their own workshop needs a standalone professional diagnostic tool. These usually offer by far the greatest range of functions. In addition, they are compatible with practically every type of car.

Moreover, a standalone diagnostic tool is also particularly useful if you want to diagnose older vehicles since their interface can only be accessed with this tool.

On the other hand, modern vehicles (manufactured in 2001 or later) have an OBD2 interface. This interface can be accessed either with a mobile app, software, or a diagnostic tool.

In conclusion, having your own equipment to read out your car helps you save a lot of time and money. “When a warning light comes on, it is often just small things. Instead of having to go directly to the workshop, you can use a diagnostic scan tool to find out for yourself where exactly the error lies.” Sven Mischke, auto journalist

Is it possible to carry out a diagnosis for all car brands? 

In principle yes. However, it depends on the device that you are using since not all devices are compatible with every car brand in the world. The devices that can diagnose almost every car are often truly professional devices and therefore expensive. So, you must think carefully about what exactly you need. If you have a workshop, you naturally need the widest possible range. However, as a private user, a diagnostic tool that supports the most common models or even a special app for just one car brand might be enough.

The OBD2 Interface

As just mentioned, all vehicles built-in 2001 or later have an OBD2 (on-board diagnostics) interface. To establish a connection between the car and the diagnostic tool, an OBD2 scanner is required which is plugged into the corresponding output on the car. These scanners usually have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to the device or app.

These OBD2 scanners are available from $20 upwards. Cheap code readers products are not recommended though, as they usually do not have an original chip and therefore OBD2 errors can occur. The motto “Those who buy cheap, buy twice.” applies here!

Via the interface and the OBD2 adapter, hundreds of functions can be performed, for example, reading out OBD2 codes, data on fuel consumption, torque, or acceleration data. It is also possible to send data to the car and thus code it. The OBD2 interface is key for this communication.

What types of standalone diagnostic tools are available?

There are various types of standalone diagnostic tools:

  • Small, handheld devices with a small screen and buttons
  • Small devices with slightly larger touch screens
  • Larger devices (comparable to an external navigation system), which also have a larger screen
  • Large diagnostic tools, which are more reminiscent of a robust laptop and have many special keys for standard functions

Here too, it all depends on your taste and your wallet. Usually, the larger devices with big screens and touch functions are the most expensive. The prices range from $50 to $7,500 or more.

Some of these diagnostic devices only work with cables, others with the OBD2 adapter and/or Bluetooth. Usually, for older model series, a connection is only possible with the right cable. The real professional devices often come with dozens of possible cables and connections.

What to look for when purchasing a standalone diagnostic tool?

The choice is enormous, so it is important to think carefully about what is important to you in terms of functionality. In principle, there are various criteria that can be used to decide on the right device. Among others these include:

  • The general range of functions
      • What diagnoses can be made?
      • Is it also possible to read and evaluate real-time data?
      • How is the data shown?
      • Is coding also possible?
  • The size and quality of the screen
      • Is the screen easy to read?
      • What is the resolution?
      • Do you want a touch function or rather “real” keys?
  • The scope of delivery (extra cable, etc.)
      • What exactly is included?
      • Do you need any other accessories? 
      • Are connections for rarer or older models included?
  • The price
      • What do you want to spend?
      • Is the price worth it?

The type of connection (by cable, OBD, directly via Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi)

      • Do you prefer a wireless connection?
      • Can it also be by cable?
  • The relevance of the system
    • Does the manufacturer offer free updates?
    • If not, how expensive are the updates?

The Test

car diagnosticsAs mentioned at the beginning, we have an expert jury. It is made up of two master car mechanics, a car journalist, a gas station operator, and a well-versed “normal” person. They took a closer look at a total of 25 best car diagnostic tools. All devices were tested on three different VW, BMW, and Toyota cars. All models are from the years 2017-2019.

A catalogue of criteria was drawn up in advance for testing the equipment. Two or three additional criteria were added during the testing, as they arose. The following criteria were particularly important to the jury:

  • Scope of the diagnosis
  • Accuracy of the diagnosis
  • Database of error codes
  • Additional features
  • General user-friendliness
  • Quality and resolution of the screen 
  • The durability of the case and screen
  • The updated policy of the manufacturer
  • Scope of delivery

After all devices and performance tests had been carried out, we evaluated the test results. Here are the Top 10 best car diagnostic tools for you in reverse order. Let’s start with 10th place.

The 10 Best Car Diagnostic Tools

OBD2 Reader

Like having your own mechanic!

#10: NEXPEAK NX 501

Description

The Nexpeak NX 501 makes a robust impression. The screen is small with its 2.8”, but quite easy to read. The device can only be used for reading the trouble codes. The connection is established via the OBD2 interface. All cars are supported with OBD. Unlimited, free updates are offered.

Features

  • Reading and deleting trouble codes
  • Unlimited updates
  • Battery monitoring

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Reliable reading of errors
  • Supports all manufacturers and models
  • Very small range of functions

Price

Around 70 USD

#9: LAUNCH CRP 429

Description

The Launch CRP 429 reliably performs a complete system analysis. It reads out all control units without any problems, can retrieve live data, and recognize subsystems. The design is attractive, and the keys are well made. A report can be generated and sent by email.

Features

  • Reading and deleting diagnostic trouble codes
  • Large internal database
  • Display of the diagnostic history

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Ordinary scope of functions
  • Reads lots of different data, also from subsystems
  • Data can be sent via email
  • Relatively expensive

Price

Around 350 USD

#8: MaxiDiag MD806 Pro (Autel)

Description

A very solid device from Autel with all car brands supported. In addition to reading out errors, this device can do a lot more, such as calibrating the steering angle sensor, displaying live PID data from multiple sensors, or even unit tests to check the EVAP system.

Features

  • Reading and deleting errors — even manufacturer-specific ones!
  • Special features such as relearning the parking brake pad or DPF regeneration

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Wide range of functions
  • Lifelong free updates
  • Not inexpensive

Price

Around 260 USD

#7: LAUNCH X431 PRO mini

Description

In addition to the standard reading of errors, this diagnostic tool can monitor live data, perform a system calibration, or perform automatic scans. The high-quality colour monitor ensures clarity. Updates are included for 2 years. Approx. 80% of all vehicles are compatible and the connection is via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Features

  • Steering angle calibration
  • Reset of the electronic parking brake
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System reset
  • Fuel injector coding

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Ordinary range of functions
  • 2 years of free updates
  • Expensive

Price

Around 740 USD

#6: LESCARS Auto Diagnostics

Description

Small, but powerful. All errors are displayed in plain text on the small but detailed monitor and they can also be reset. With only 4 keys you can easily find your way through the menu. Works especially well with cars from Audi, VW, and Skoda. About 130 system components can be monitored.

Features

  • The output of errors in plain text
  • Especially useful for Audi, VW, and Skoda models

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Good fault diagnosis
  • Good monitor (monochrome)
  • Limited range of functions

Price

Around 70 Euro

#5: VIDENT ilink 440

Description

Our selection for fifth place is an all-rounder that is compatible with all car models. It reads and erases OBD2 errors without any problems and disables the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) for the engine, transmission, airbags, and ABS. Real-time output of data is also possible. The 2.8” colour monitor is clearly legible, even if it is a little small.

Features

  • Supports Electronic Parking Brake (EPB) functions
  • Battery configuration
  • Recording live sensor data

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • 3 years of free updates
  • Very robust workmanship
  • The screen is a bit small

Price

Around 110 USD

#4: ANCEL FX2000

 Description

Besides the diagnosis of the usual protocols, the FX-2000 also performs a complete diagnosis of the ECU systems (SRS, ABS, and transmission). Live data is displayed in a visually appealing graphic. The 4” colour screen offers a good quality display and the keys ensure easy handling.

Features

  • O2 sensor test
  • Advanced scanning mode
  • Record and evaluate real-time data

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Almost all vehicles are supported
  • Eight languages to choose from
  • Free lifetime updates
  • Works only with 12V vehicle batteries

Price

Around 160 USD

#3: ICarsoft CR Pro

Description

The ICarsoft CR Pro supports about 40 car brands and is an all-in-one device for error analysis and troubleshooting. Via the OBD interface all relevant engine, transmission, airbag, and ABS data, etc, can be readout and processed. The 4” screen is sufficiently large. Updates are available free of charge.

Features

  • 40 manufacturers are supported
  • Can view live data
  • I/M readiness test
  • O2 sensor test
  • Evap system test etc.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Wide range of tests for many systems
  • Battery monitoring
  • Free updates

Price

Around 290 USD

#2: LAUNCH CRP MOT II

Description

The Launch CRP MOT II has been specially designed for the European market and includes 11 different functionalities. All major brands are supported. The scope of delivery includes a Bluetooth OBD2 adapter and other connection cables. The exceptionally large 7” screen with the touch function allows excellent operation of the device.

Features

  • Oil reset
  • Electronic parking brake reset
  • Battery Management System reset
  • Calibrating steering angle sensor
  • DPF reset

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Printing of data is possible
  • Free updates for 12 months
  • Instructions in German will be sent by email
  • Also Wi-Fi compatible
  • Very high price

Price

Around 890 Euros

#1: AUTEL MaxiCheck MX808

Description

Autel’s scan tool wins the top spot in the best car diagnostic tool test! The diagnosis can be performed for all vehicle manufacturers. The large 7” color display provides a good overview and the quad-core processor ensures very fast data processing. Reading and overwriting error codes, live data retrieval, and many other unique features make the Autel MaxiCheck MX808 a worthy winner.

Features

  • Read and delete errors
  • Display of live data
  • Vehicle search via VIN number
  • Support for DPF regeneration
  • Injector coding
  • And much more

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Great performance
  • Good features
  • Attractive menu navigation and graphics
  • One year of free updates
  • Expensive

Price

Around 480 USD

 

Better Alternatives to Standalone Diagnostic Tools

If you are looking for more professional alternatives, higher-end diagnostic tools, or OBD2 tools that do even MORE than just diagnostics, we have also listed the top three best OBD2 diagnostic tools for mobile phones:

TOP 3: OBDLINK

This app works with a special OBD2 adapter. The user interface is clearly arranged and fully configurable. 90 different values can be read and processed in real-time. All analysis and data can be saved as a CSV file or sent by email.

 

TOP 2: TORQUE PRO

The Torque Pro app has a huge feature set. The database of OBD2 errors alone is unparalleled. The real-time analysis goes as expected. A special feature is a possibility of uploading its data to the manufacturer’s website for in-depth analysis. They have over 1,000,000 installations.

TOP 1: CARLY

car diagnostics

Carly users confirm that you could save up to $500 a year in maintenance and repair costs by using the app and the Carly OBD2 Scanner.

Besides performing your own diagnostics and reading out error codes, the wide range of features allows you to carry your own car maintenance, customize your car through coding, and even carry out a used-car check.

Additionally, its intuitive menu, appealing graphics, and much more have convinced us. It also works with all car brands and most models in 2001 or later and the Carly app is fully compatible with iOS and Android devices.

So far, over one million people use the Carly app around the world. Carly offers standalone subscriptions for BMW, VAG, and Mercedes. Or you can select their “all in one” app which allows you to use advanced Carly features on any supported car, regardless of the brand.

OBD2 Reader

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