The Best Cheap OBD2 Scanners of 2019

An OBD2 scanner is a diagnostic tool that connects to your vehicle. These universal scanners work on all U.S. vehicles produced since 1996 (they connect to a car or truck's SAE J1962 port).

OBD2 scanners are two-way devices that can read a vehicle's auto-diagnostic codes and send instructions back to the vehicle. For example, an OBD2 scanner can diagnose why a vehicle's "Check Engine" light is on. It can also reset the light (i.e. tell the car's computer to turn it off).

Some ODB2 scanners look like Gameboy-sized handheld computers. Others are screenless, using a Bluetooth dongle that pairs with an iPhone or Android phone (and displays data in an app). 

Even the cheapest OBD2 scanners are good for basic diagnostics; some models output live data that is useful for running tests. The best OBD2 scanners support SRS/ABS trouble codes for diagnosing air bag systems and anti-lock brakes. Expect to pay $75 or more for these advanced models.

An OBD2 scanner isn't magic. Don't buy one unless you're willing to learn how it (and your vehicle) works.  Auto repair codes are like a foreign language; it takes time and energy to learn what they mean and what to do next. That said, an OBD2 scanner is a powerful tool that can quickly pay for itself.

Here are the best reviewed OBD2 scanners that have sold for $50 or less. OBD2 scanners are universal, but I still suggest using Amazon's "Shop by Vehicle" feature to make sure the unit will fit your vehicle:

Good Price: $21 | Great Deal: $14

Bafx's OBD2 scanner is relatively easy to set up, according to several Amazon customers. The recommended-app (Torque Pro) must be purchased separately for $5 before you can use the scanner. An iOS-compatible scanner is available for a few dollars more than the Android model.

Good Price: $35 | Great Deal: $25

Autel's OBD2 scanner is easy to read and understand, according to several Amazon customers who appreciated the way the scanner describes error codes. Some reviewers wish that the unit had a longer connection cable.

Good Price: $41 | Great Deal: $36

Ancel's OBD2 scanner has a big screen that's easy to read, according to several Amazon customers. The instructions left some reviewers confused or wanting more information (but many of them found what they were looking for on YouTube).

Good Price: $12 | Great Deal: $10

This mini OBD2 scanner takes some fussing with to get it to sync and needs to be unplugged/replugged sometimes. That said, many Amazon customers were happy with these tradeoffs because the unit only costs around $10 (plus another $5 for the Torque Pro app).

Good Price: $17 | Great Deal: $10

This OBD2 scanner works well for the money, but several Amazon customers complained that the unit's navigation arrow only goes down (not up-and-down like in the product photo).

Good Price: $11 | Great Deal: $10

Many Amazon reviewers used this Kitbest OBD2 scanner to successfully diagnose a "check engine" light or discover a faulty gas cap. According to some customers, this unit only provides generic error codes, not car specific ones.


John DeFeo