AutomotiveTools and Equipment

The 9 Best Car Scanner Code Readers | Engine Scanners

A car scanner code reader is a diagnostic scan tool made for vehicles built after 1996. It plugs into your car’s OBD2 port, and immediately begins downloading a lot of information about your car for troubleshooting purposes.

It can tell you what is wrong with it, what it was doing at the time it went wrong, and what you can do to fix it. They are mainly a mechanic in the palm of your hand.

However, they’re not all useful. Some are only suitable for particular vehicles, while others fail to pick up common diagnostic codes. The market is full of car scanner code readers that aren’t perfect or aren’t right for you. Check out these nine options below, then find out which one is going to suit your car and your needs the best.

9. AUTOPHIX Code Reader for Checking Car Engine

Going to a car mechanic can be an expensive undertaking if you don’t know what’s wrong with your car, but if you buy an AUTPHIX car scanner code reader, it can be so much more affordable. This car scan tool, like many others on the market, can help to diagnose issues in your car so you can take swift action. Instead of buying parts to try and fix it without knowing if it really will, you can buy this one unit in three style options, then have it accurately tell you what the problem is.

This high-quality car scanner code reader is affordable, comes with a striking black and yellow color scheme, and works with multiple car manufacturers. As a result, as long as your car is younger than 1996 and has an OBD2 function, you can use this car scanner code reader with it.

That’s not all that’s on offer with this car scanner, however. For the life of the unit, you receive free updates, as well as knowing that you have access to a range of fault codes to solve many mechanical problems. It’s also one of the most affordable on the market, making it worth its weight in gold to save you time and money.


  • Three style options
  • OBDII scanner
  • Black and yellow color scheme
  • Multiple brands
  • Lifetime free updates


  • Affordable to buy
  • Plenty of style options
  • It will work with many car brands
  • It can pick up a range of faults
  • Suitable for all cars with an OBD2 function after 1996


  • No recall option so you can remember the codes to look up
  • The instructions are inaccurate
  • Live data is slow

8. Innova Check Engine Code Reader Scan Tool

If money is no object and you need a car scanner code reader that will get the job done, then set your sights on this unit from Innova. You can choose from color or black and white screens, and the knowledge that all error lights that come on are accurate and easy to resolve.

You can use this car scanner code reader for checking the health of your battery and alternator, reset your error codes, and see what your fluid and temperature levels were when an error light came on. The detail of this car scanner code reader is fantastic.

However, the purchase price is not even scraping the surface of what you will need to pay to use this unit. Not only do you have to pay the tag price for the product, but you then have to pay more to understand, see, and explore the diagnostic codes on the manufacturer’s website. For those who don’t mind paying a little more, it’s not a problem, but it’s an unwanted hassle for people who were not expecting additional costs.

It’s an excellent unit that’s easy to use and take care of, but its ongoing costs make it not suitable for all users.


  • Color screen or black and white screen option
  • Suitable for cars 1996 or newer with OBD2
  • Reads and erases ABS and SRS trouble codes
  • Battery and alternator testing
  • Freeze frame engine condition checks
  • Oil reset feature


  • You can choose to have a color screen or a more basic black and white one
  • It will clear the errors on your dash
  • You can use it for checking your battery and alternator health
  • It will reset the oil feature
  • You can see how much fuel and coolant you had at the time it brought up the engine light, as well as the temperature
  • It’s a robust unit that’s suitable for a workshop environment


  • You have to pay a subscription fee to access this brand’s website
  • Minimal documentation to learn how to use the device
  • Slow response time
  • Only basic data available
  • Expensive for what’s on offer

7. ANCEL Universal Scanner Car Engine Fault Code Reader

When you only need a regular car scanner code reader to give you a rough idea of the problems you are facing, then this is the tool for the job. It won’t win any awards for accuracy or detailing, but given its price tag, it’s perfect for helping a home mechanic get a general feel for the problem.

It’s one of the most affordable car scanner code readers on the market, is suitable for a range of vehicles, and offers hard memory for codes you need to check from previous problems. What’s more, you don’t need to worry about the battery with this car scanner code reader. Instead, when you connect it to the OBDII port in your vehicle, it charges from that connection.

ANCEL automotive code reader also comes with a three-year warranty, a 2.5-foot data cable, and plenty of helpful advice to put you one step closer to checking all the problems with your vehicles.


  • Black color scheme
  • 1996 OBD2 and above
  • Domestic and import vehicle compatibility
  • I/M monitor readiness test
  • Freeze frame data
  • Hard memory and historic codes
  • LCD display screen
  • White backlight
  • Charges from your OBDII connector
  • 2.5-foot data cable
  • Three-year warranty


  • Very detailed
  • Generous warranty period
  • Hardy
  • You don’t need to worry about batteries and chargers as it all charges from your OBDII port
  • Works with most vehicles younger than 1996
  • Suitable for beginners and experts
  • Affordable to buy
  • The instructions are clear for use
  • Plenty of advanced features to get a diagnostic answer


  • Can’t read ABS codes
  • Doesn’t clear the codes easily or on all vehicles
  • Some of the codes come with no explanation
  • Poor real-time information

6. FOXWELL OBD II OBD2 NT201 Auto Code Scanner

Finding a quick and easy car scanner code reader that’s effortless to use and affordable to buy is a challenge, but FOXWELL will prove it’s not an impossibility. This car scanner code reader will be suitable for any amateur or expert who is looking to make quick work of diagnostics.

As soon as you plug it into your vehicle, it will begin to charge itself while also coming up with a full health status of your car. It will let you know what your emission status is while even reading and erasing your error codes. You can then write down those codes and research them to find out what problems you are having with your vehicle.

There is also more to this car scanner code reader than meets the eye. It has LED indicators, is suitable for a range of vehicles and offers freeze frame data for a look back in time. It will also carry out an I/M Readiness Status to help you get to grips with where your vehicle’s health is.


  • Orange color
  • Suitable for OBD2, EOBD, JOBD, and CAN
  • IM readiness status design
  • LED indicators
  • State Emission Monitor Status
  • Reader and eraser of codes
  • Troubleshoots codes
  • Freeze frame data
  • Built-in speaker
  • Colorful LCD display screen
  • Three-year warranty
  • Battery-free


  • Bright color so you won’t misplace it in your home or business workshop
  • Affordable price tag
  • Picks up error codes for a multitude of manufacturers
  • It charges its battery from your OBD2 port
  • It can do a health check of your vehicle
  • You can see live data with it
  • It will reset, read, and erase your error codes
  • It’s resistant to dust and debris
  • You get a three-year warranty with it


  • Not as many features as more expensive models
  • Once you know the code, you have to research what it means yourself
  • It won’t update on newer Windows computers

5. MaxiLink ML619 Car Scanner Code Reader

If you need a basic car scanner code reader for business or home use, then you may find this one is worth your inspection. Even though it’s far more basic than other models on the market, it can help you get to the root of the problem with minimal effort.

All this car scanner code reader needs you to do is input information, plug it in, and let it come up with either generic, pending, or manufacturer codes. It can also display ABS and SRS warning lights, live and freeze frame data, PCM data, and more. This car scanner code reader even has active sensors and provides you with free updates for the life of the unit. However, it may not update on computers that are newer such as Windows 10.

While this car scanner code reader will make you work harder than other models to get the information you require, it’s still a robust, well-made and technical unit that will give you peace of mind that your vehicle is getting a thorough check.


  • ABS and SRS warning lights
  • 1996 capabilities and above
  • Extensive vehicle coverage
  • Generic, pending, and manufacturer codes
  • Live data display
  • Freeze frame data
  • PCM data
  • Live sensors
  • Free updates


  • Well made
  • A wide range of codes
  • Suitable for all makes and models
  • Ideal for home or business use
  • Robust unit


  • The updates don’t work for newer Windows computers
  • You have to input a lot of information to get a lot out of it
  • Only supports one language
  • Expensive compared to other models of similar capabilities

4. FOXWELL OBD2 NT301 Auto Diagnostic Scanner Code Reader

While you may need to be mechanically-minded to understand all the features of this car scanner code reader, you will be pleased it’s as detailed as it is. If it wasn’t, you might struggle to get to the root of the problems you are having.

This FOXWELL car scanner code reader is leagues ahead of its competition in many ways. It can read then erase check engine lights on your dash, provide extensive diagnostic codes in the built-in library, and show you them in graphs and text mode as well. FOXWELL auto code reader even has an enhanced style so you can give your car a full health check while you have it plugged in.

It also comes with free updates, a 2.8-inch color screen, and a one-year warranty as well. These features coupled with the worldwide compatibility see it rates as one of the best and most affordably priced car scanner code reader on the market.


  • Check engine light sensor
  • Eraser and reader
  • Built-in DTC lookup library
  • Live data
  • Graphs and text
  • Enhanced mode
  • Live vehicle sensors
  • Worldwide car compatibility
  • 2.8-inch color screen
  • One-year warranty
  • Lifetime free updates


  • You get free updates for the life of the unit
  • It comes with a warranty
  • It features a range of diagnostic codes
  • It will erase error lights and read them
  • There is an enhanced mode to get more out of the scanner
  • The screen is color
  • It’s suitable for all makes and models after 1996
  • It’s very detailed and specific
  • Affordable price tag


  • The CD that comes with the unit doesn’t upgrade the software
  • The instructions are not easy to follow
  • It uses abbreviations that you may need to research

3. SEEKONE OBD2 SK860 Auto Diagnostic Check Engine Scan Tool

If you don’t want a mechanic to take advantage of you and waste hundreds of dollars, then it might be time to invest in this car scanner code reader from SEEKONE. It’s professional, robust, well made, and is packed full of helpful information to see you diagnosing your vehicle problems. Why pay someone to come up with the answer when a car scanner code reader can do it for you?

This professional-style car scanner code reader picks up faults automatically, reads and erases codes, and even has a built-in diagnostic code library. What’s more, it will provide all the information you require in numerical or graph form, with a built-in speaker and I/M readiness monitor too. Everything you need to get back on the road quicker is available in this one compact unit.

The benefits of this car scanner code reader don’t end there, either. It runs you through an automatic VIN process, has broad compatibility for a range of vehicles, monitors your emissions, and comes with a free lifetime warranty and updates as well. With only a few challenges in the updating and technology side, you will see it’s well worth a closer look.


  • Professional style
  • Automatic fault code reader
  • Read and erase codes
  • The built-in diagnostic code library
  • I/M Readiness Monitoring
  • Graph and number data streams
  • Automatic VIN process
  • Broad compatibility
  • Built-in speaker
  • Emission monitor
  • Anti-shock
  • 2.8-inch color screen
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Lifetime free updates


  • It can handle you dropping it
  • It’s rugged and well made
  • You can use it for business or home use
  • It provides live data
  • It lets you know whether your vehicle passes emission standards
  • It can give a full health check
  • It will erase check engine lights
  • It has multiple languages
  • You can update it for free
  • Generous warranty period


  • Challenging to connect it to all PCs
  • The log file is a strange file type
  • Not suitable for Mac computers
  • Not easy to update
  • The codes are hard to figure out

2. Launch CRP129 Professional Car Scanner Code Reader

Even though the price tag of this car scanner code reader can put a few people off, you will soon change your tune when you realize how many features it has to offer. If you were to compare it to other car scanner code readers on the market, you would see it’s leagues ahead of many of them.

It’s compatible with ENG, ABS, SRS, and AT – four necessary systems, and has a reset function to clear those pesky error lights as well. However, that’s not all you can expect from this car scanner code reader. It covers a wide range of vehicles, even if it doesn’t have all the codes for the latest on the market, and offers a graphic display with live data streams too.

Then, it comes with a one-year warranty, plenty of updates available (although they’re not free), and it’s suitable for a professional or a home user. There’s no denying you will pay more for LAUNCH CRP129 car scanner code reader than you would another one, but its extensive options and diagnostic code lists show you that it’s worth every penny.


  • ENG, AT, ABS, and SRS compatible
  • Four systems
  • Reset function
  • Wide vehicle coverage
  • Data streams
  • Graphic display
  • One-year warranty
  • Updates available


  • Suitable for professional or home use
  • Very detailed
  • Robust and built to last
  • Suitable for all makes and models
  • Will provide live data streams
  • Has all the functions you need for a diagnosis


  • Expensive to buy
  • It doesn’t come with free updates
  • It doesn’t pick up late model vehicle codes
  • Oil reset lights don’t work on all vehicles

1. ANCEL FX6000 Full System Vehicle Scan Tool Code Reader for Engine

If money is no barrier in your hunt for a car scanner code reader, then there’s every reason to check out this one from ANCEL. There’s no denying it’s one of the most expensive options on the market, but it will surely provide you with all the answers you require to diagnose your vehicle. By doing so, you can save a significant sum of money on mechanic bills.

It’s a multi-system car scanner code reader, offers a comprehensive diagnostic code list, and supports ten OBDII test modes as well. This device also provides live data, freeze frames, a multi-language setting, and broad vehicle coverage. As soon as you buy it, you then have access to two years’ worth of free updates.

This car scanner code reader is available in two style options and is easily one of the most detailed on the market. However, its price tag is something that many people might not be able to get past. It’s far more expensive than other similar models, and this one even makes you buy the results once you find the diagnostic code. It’s an excellent product, but one that comes at a hefty cost.


  • ECU coding and programming
  • Multi-system product
  • Comprehensive diagnostic codes list
  • Supports ten OBDII test modes
  • Live data
  • Freeze frame
  • Clears history
  • Multi-language
  • Broad vehicle coverage
  • Two years of free updates
  • HD screen
  • Two style options


  • Suitable for professional use and home users
  • You can choose from two style options
  • You get updates for free for two years
  • It’s ideal for a broad range of vehicles
  • It supports 10 OBDII test modes
  • One of the most detailed on the market


  • Very expensive to purchase
  • You have to pay for the code information
  • More basic than you would expect from a costly unit

Considerations for Purchasing a Car Scan Tools

Every car scanner code reader on the market is different, which makes it a challenge to find one that will work with your vehicle. If you aren’t mechanically minded, it’s even more challenging. These points below may help you to make an informed purchasing decision.

  1. Price

    Unfortunately, the cost varies dramatically from one unit to the next, even if many of the features are the same. You need to compare the quality close to the price tag. Will the one that’s $100 dearer do a better job? Or, will one of the least expensive options provide you with the data you need to fix the problem? Expensive is not always best.

  2. Compatibility

    Most car scanner code readers are compatible with all vehicles after 1996 that features an OBD2 port. However, they can be quite sensitive. Some don’t read late model cars, while others are picky with European models, or only work with North American vehicles. Pay close attention to the compatibility because you may find yourself spending money on a scanner that won’t work in your car.

  3. Details

    A code reader and scanner is a product you can’t buy on a whim. You need to check out the details, compare it to other models, and find out every single aspect about it. If you don’t, you can end up with a product that won’t work with your vehicle. Read reviews, find out about updates and whether you have to pay for them, and if they come with a warranty. Every single detail counts to help you make the right purchasing decision.


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