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!
Best value for price
Best for budget solution
Best for basic diagnostics
Best for expert users
A repair & maintenance app for beginners and experts, that offers mechanic insights and repair guides besides diagnostics, car coding and live data functionalities.
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.
A great option if you only want to focus on car diagnostics and live data, in order to read fault codes in your vehicle.
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.
- 1Mobile app with your own OBD2 scanner
- 2Standalone diagnostic tool
- 3OBD 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:
OBD2 scanner and app
Beginners and experts
- 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
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.
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!
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!
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
- 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?