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Which is the best car diagnostic device? We test out!

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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 diagnostic test. Our team of experts shortlisted 25 devices to discover the best car diagnostic tool.

To know what is happening with our vehicles, we always go to an auto repair shop or to auto mechanics. And in the end, it gets expensive. So, it would be much more convenient and affordable to do a car diagnostic test by 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!

TOP PICKS

Best value for price

Best for budget solution

Best for basic diagnostics

Best for expert users

Carly

A repair & maintenance app for beginners and experts, that offers mechanic insights and repair guides besides diagnostics, car coding and live data functionalities.

Torque pro

An easy and user friendly interface if you want to get started with several functionalities such as diagnostics, car coding, and live data on your vehicle.

OBDLINK

A great option if you only want to focus on car diagnostics and live data, in order to read fault codes in your vehicle.

AUTEL

A complete auto scan tool for experienced users with advanced OBD data, that allows you monitor you car's system by providing you in-depth raw data.

3 different tools to diagnose your car

To check your car thoroughly, there are essentially three different options.

  1. 1
    Mobile app with your own OBD2 scanner 
  2. 2
    Standalone diagnostic tool
  3. 3
    OBD software installed on your laptop/table 

Each of these car diagnostics possibilities has its advantages and disadvantages and is suitable for different target groups. Here is a short overview:

Diagnostic tool

Best for

Pros

Cons

OBD2 scanner and app

Beginners and experts

- Affordable

- Portable

- Up to date software

- Not all vehicles supported

Standalone diagnostic tool

Car owner with some diagnostic data experience

- Professional equipment

- External device

- Bulkier device

- Need car knowledge to interpret data

OBD2 software

Advanced car experts and mechanics

- Extensive features

- Extreme in-depth data

- Need car knowledge to interpret data

- Not portable

Anyone who sells used cars or that has their own auto repair shop 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.

The car diagnostic tool test

We have an expert jury made up of two professional mechanic members, 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 each auto diagnostic tool.  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. 

What is the OBD2 interface?

All vehicles built-in 2001 or later have an OBD2 (onboard 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. However, we don’t recommend you to get a cheap code reader since they usually don’t have an original chip. So OBD2 errors can occur. The motto “Those who buy cheap, buy twice.” applies here!

Via the interface and the OBD2 scanner, hundreds of functions can be performed, for example, reading and clearing 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 and the available features will depend on the scanner you choose!

Can I carry out diagnostics for all car brands?

In principle yes. However, it depends on the scan tool 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 and are a professional mechanic, you naturally need heavy-duty scan tools that give you the widest possible range.

However, as a private user, you can decide if you just want a basic scan tool that allows you to read/clear trouble codes and perform basic functions, or one with more advanced functions that can even let you code your car!

What to look for when purchasing a car diagnostic tool?

The choice is enormous, so it is important to think carefully about what is important to you in terms of functionality and diagnostic functions. 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 the tool more than just a diagnostic trouble code reader?
    • 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?

#10 NEXPEAK NK501

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

NEXPEAK NK 501

This car diagnostic tool can only be used for reading the fault codes. The connection is established via the OBD2 interface. All cars are supported with an OBD port which can be usually found under the steering wheel. Additionally, NEXPEAK offers unlimited free updates.

Pros

  • Reliable reading of fault codes
  • Supports all manufacturers and models
  • Portable and easy to carry around

Cons

  • Limited range of features offers
  • Need car knowledge to interpret raw data

#9 LAUNCH CRP 429

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

LAUNCH CRP 429

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.

Pros

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

Cons

  • Relatively expensive scanner
  • Ordinary scope of functions
  • One year free update only

#8 MaxiDiag MD806 Pro (Autel)

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

MaxiDiag MD806 Pro (Autel)

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.

Pros

  • Wide range of functions
  • Lifelong free updates
  • Support 13 different languages

Cons

  • Slightly expensive
  • Does not support newer vehicles
  • 1 year warranty only

#7 Launch X431 PRO mini

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

Launch X431 PRO mini

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.

Pros

  • Can support almost all car models
  • Wi-fi connection
  • Support 17 different languages

Cons

  • Ordinary range of functions
  • Relatively expensive device
  • 2 years of free updates only

#6 LESCARS Auto Diagnostics

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

LESCARS Auto Diagnostics

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. 

Pros

  • Good for diagnostics reading
  • Clear and detailed screen display (monochrome)
  • Affordable device

Cons

  • Limited range of functions
  • Great for Audi, VW, and Skoda only
  • Not wireless

#5 VIDENT ilink 440 

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

VIDENT ilink 440

Our selection for fifth best car diagnostic tool 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.

Pros

  • Robust device
  • Affordable price
  • Very robust workmanship

Cons

  • Small display screen
  • Not wireless
  • # years of free updates only

#4 ANCEL FX2000 

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

ANCEL FX2000

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.

Pros

  • Almost all vehicles are supported
  • Affordable price
  • 8 languages supported

Cons

  • Basic diagnostics only
  • Free lifetime updates
  • Only words with 12V vehicle batteries

#3 ICarsoft CR Pro

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

ICarsoft CR Pro

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.

Pros

  • Free updates
  • Supports a wide range of vehicles
  • Digital and wide screen

Cons

  • Limited functions
  • Slightly expensive device
  • Not wireless

#2 LAUNCH CRP MOT II

  • Overview

  • Features

  • Price & Reviews

LAUNCH CRP MOT II

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.

Pros