Best OBD2 scanners for 2021

Control electronics and computer chips, which have been an integral part of cars for decades, are as critical as any mechanical components for a car’s operation. Many of the mechanical systems in a vehicle are managed by a progressively complicated network of electronic controls and sensors. This is true whether we’re talking about the engine and transmission, safety features, suspension, brakes and emission controls, accessories or even tires

While this sophisticated system supports cars as they become more and more technologically advanced, having such a complex computer in your car is a double-edged sword — unless your a computer programmer, how on earth do you determine what exactly is tripping that dreaded “Check Engine” light? Enter an OBD2 scanner. This type car scanner is crucial for understanding, maintaining and repairing modern vehicles. DIY types or anyone who wants to know what’s happening inside their car — and possibly save a few bucks — can benefit from an OBD2 reader and a basic understanding of what to do about certain fault codes.

We encourage adding an OBD2 diagnostic scanner to your toolbox, but it can be intimidating to search for the right one. There are hundreds of different OBD2 scanner options out there in auto parts stores, discount stores and at the far fringes of the internet, with prices varying by thousands of dollars. Many are excellent, regardless of price. Many are junk, with no legitimate product support. 

This list includes an OBD2 scanner tool for every purpose and buyer, and it’s updated periodically. Keep reading for an overview of how scanners work, what they can do, our methodology for choosing them, key things to consider before purchasing and some pro tips.

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