11 Best OBD2 Bluetooth Scanners: Your Buyer’s Guide

obd2 bluetooth scanners

The check engine light turning on in your car’s dashboard can be the source of serious anxiety for some. If you’re not a car person, you might have no idea what would cause such a thing, nor how to go about fixing it. Fortunately, there are a number of devices on the market that can turn your smartphone into a scan tool. Save yourself the pressure of committing to a huge repair bill before you know what’s wrong with your car by turning your smartphone into a car code reader with a OBD2 Bluetooth scanner.

What are the best OBD2 Bluetooth scanners?

Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Companion app for both iOS and Android
  • Complete diagnostics information for a wide range of vehicles
  • Free repair guides
Price: $99.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
OBDLink MX+ OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Wide device compatibility
  • Compatible with many third-party apps
  • Handy status lights
Price: $119.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Autel AP200 Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Car Code Reader Amazon Customer Reviews
  • One free vehicle enhanced codes and functions
  • Scan history
  • Free upgrades in app
Price: $69.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Allows control of additional car functions
  • Companion app on Android and iOS
  • Cheaper than leading rivals
Price: $29.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Veepeak OBDCheck BLE OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Carrying case included
  • Compatible with Torque, DashCommand, OBDFusion and other apps
Price: $32.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Compatible with third-party apps
  • Hugely popular
  • Two year warranty
Price: $22.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
FIXD Professional OBD2 Bluetooth Scan Tool & Code Reader Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Ability to link multiple vehicles together
  • Optional upgraded app experience
  • Volume discount pricing
Price: $58.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Compatible with iOS and Android
  • Connection status lights
  • Speedy processing and data transfer
Price: $89.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
LELink Bluetooth Low Energy OBD-II Car Diagnostic Tool Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Relatively cheap option with iOS support
  • Compatible with third-party apps
  • Two year warranty
Price: $29.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Compatible with Torque, OBDscope, ScanMaster, and other apps
  • Inexpensive
  • Basic code clearing for all OBD2 compliant vehicles
Price: $11.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Mestart Enhanced Version Bluetooth OBD2 Car Scanner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Dirt cheap
  • Compact
  • Compatible with third-party apps
Price: $11.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. BlueDriver LSB2 Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool

    Pros:
    • Companion app for both iOS and Android
    • Complete diagnostics information for a wide range of vehicles
    • Free repair guides
    Cons:
    • Code availability may be limited in some cases
    • Expensive
    • Some connectivity problems at times

    We previously featured the BlueDriver on our gifts for car guys post, and it’s still among the nicest on the market in terms of overall design and presentation. Unlike some of the others on this list, BlueDriver has its own app, so there won’t be any confusion between the tool and a third-party app.

    Updates are free, and you can save data and read live data during a trip, which can further help to diagnose under what conditions error codes appear. The included database of fixes is a nice bonus, if you’re inclined to get under the hood and solve the problem yourself.

    CEL codes are included for all makes, while the continuously updated software means that enhanced codes are now available for 13 major manufacterers, including GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, BMW, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, and more. If you live in a state with emissions testing, this will also tell you if your car is ready for a smog test.

  2. 3. Autel AP200 Bluetooth OBD2 Scanner Car Code Reader

    Pros:
    • One free vehicle enhanced codes and functions
    • Scan history
    • Free upgrades in app
    Cons:
    • No Android 10 support (as of Jan 2020)
    • Additional model support is pricey
    • Each added model is a yearly subscription cost

    This is an excellent option if you only ever plan to use it one car and could save you money over rival options. Like the FIXD device, this looks to keep costs down but achieves this in the opposite way. Where the FIXD pricing model incentivizes purchases multiple devices for basic use on a few vehicles, this offering from Autel gives you a lifetime of support for a single vehicle and allows you to upgrade for other vehicles as needed.

    Included with purchases is the functions needed for all basic OBD2 scan items as well as 19 enhanced functions including battery monitoring, tire pressure monitoring, immobilizer keys, and more. These functions are reserved for all but the priciest of the Bluetooth scanners, but are available out of the box when using the companion app for one vehicle.

    If you should need to add vehicles, you can purchase them one at a time for $21.99 from within the app. That gives you a 12-month subscription to the additional vehicle scanning information, so over time, the cost can add up if you need it for multiple vehicles. For just one vehicle, though, it’s a strong contender for those who want maximal information.

  3. 4. Carista Bluetooth OBD2 Adapter

    Pros:
    • Allows you to control automatic doors, windows, and locks
    • Companion app on Android and iOS
    • Module itself is cheaper than leading rivals
    Cons:
    • Enhanced codes require a subscription
    • Enhanced codes limited to certain models from Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mini, Scion, Toyota, and Volkswagen
    • More limited car support list overall

    The focus of this scanner is a little different than the rest on this list. While it still does OBDII error code scanning as you’d expect, this one also allows you to control vehicle settings for some models made by Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mini, Scion, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

    You can use the app to unlock your doors, roll down your windows, and other customizations. Considering that, it’s far cheaper than the first two options, but about mid-pack overall on our list. If that certain all-white iGadget look is for you, this is one to consider. If you own a car by one of the supported makers, this also might weight more heavily than the average scan tool.

    That said, those advanced features are unlockable only by a subscription service add-on, for which they offer one month free included with the module purchase. At the time of this writing, the cost is $39.99 per year or $9.99 for a one-week pass. You could upgrade only when you have error codes showing and forego the advanced car control features, which would make this considerably cheaper than rivals. Still, the supported car list is shorter, particularly compared to the first two options on this list.

    You can also skip the Carista app and use any of the supported 3rd-party apps, if you prefer. Ultimately, this is a well-supported device that starts out cheaper and can be upgraded based on your needs.

  4. 5. Veepeak OBDCheck BLE OBD2 Bluetooth Scanner

    Pros:
    • Compatible with iOS and Android
    • Carrying case included
    • Compatible with Torque, DashCommand, OBDFusion and other apps
    Cons:
    • No companion app
    • Pairing the device on iOS outside of an app can result in a "Not Supported" error
    • Some app settings can cause connection disruptions

    While Veepeak does offer a super cheap Bluetooth scanner lacking iOS support, it’s probably worth the extra cost to upgrade to Bluetooth 4.0 and the ability to use this with your iPhone or iPad.

    This is still a relatively inexpensive unit, but you get trouble code reading and clearing, real-time performance monitoring, and sensor data that can include things like coolant temperature, air flow rate, oxygen sensor voltages, and more, depending on your car’s setup. There’s no specific app with this one, but it is compatible with most of the bigger third-party apps out there like Torque, OBDFusion, Dash Command, OBD Car Doctor, and more.

    Since Apple can be a little cagey about what’s allowed to connect to iOS devices using the Bluetooth protocol, you can also get a Mini Wi-Fi version for a bit less if you don’t want to use Bluetooth.

     

  5. 6. BAFX Products BAFX3127 Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool

    Pros:
    • Compatible with third-party apps
    • Hugely popular
    • Two year warranty with U.S.-based support
    Cons:
    • Not compatible with iOS
    • No enhanced code reading
    • No companion app for smartphones (includes CD for computers)

    If you have no need for iOS support, you could try this model, which rivals the BlueDriver scanner for the hottest-selling Bluetooth OB2 scanner going. At it’s core, it’s a fairly standard trouble code scanner and doesn’t extend much beyond that.

    As with the others on this list, it’s compatible with a wide variety of third-party apps, will pull and clear trouble codes, and can present data on any sensors configured to render them. It’s not dirt cheap like some of the other options on this list and it’s comparatively large, but given its popularity, it’s a straight-forward, useful tool to have on hand.

    Some of the popularity might be explained by the two year warranty, which is provided via U.S.-based tech support. Since getting these devices configured can be tricky for some, especially when they aren’t paired with a companion app, having the option to call a support line in the U.S. can provide peace of mind that may not be available on similarly-priced units.

    If you’re an iOS user, BAFX also offers a wi-fi version as a workaround with the same warranty support.

  6. 7. FIXD Professional OBD2 Bluetooth Scan Tool & Code Reader

    Pros:
    • Ability to link multiple vehicles together in the app
    • Optional upgraded app experience with repair estimates and mechanic hotline
    • Volume discount pricing for multi-car households
    Cons:
    • Subscription with other devices unlocks more advanced options
    • Setup can be tricky
    • Some communication errors

    This option finds a niche price-wise in two ways. First, if you buy multiples, the price of each unit is significantly cheaper, making it potentially a better choice for multi-car households. Second, the companion app is free, with an option to upgrade to a subscription model if you so choose.

    With that subscription, you get access to the company’s mechanic hotline, which is a network of ASE certified technicians that can help clarify issues your car might be having. This saves you from having to go into a shop and could extend the usefulness of this device should the codes not identify a specific problem you’re having. Other features include emissions precheck and a problem forecaster that alerts you to common problems with your vehicle.

    The app also has a streamlined way of showing all of your vehicles using a FIXD scanner. This will help you stay on top of any problems and keep you up to date on service intervals. While the app is one of the better designed ones out there, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that they really push the subscription services, so your experience can be marred somewhat by upgrade links.

    That said, the device itself can be bought for less than competitive options, especially if you’re in the market for more than one at a time.

  7. 8. PLX Devices Kiwi 3 Bluetooth OBDII Diagnostic Scan Tool

    Pros:
    • Compatible with iOS and Android
    • Connection status lights
    • Speedy processing and data transfer
    Cons:
    • Some defective units
    • Connection the first time may be difficult
    • Expensive

    Priced to compete with the front-runners, this is an evolution of previous versions of this device, made to be both smaller and faster than its predecessors. It’s most comparable to the OBD Link MX+ thanks to the status lights on the front, and differentiates itself by being a slightly more compact unit, if that’s a consideration in your search.

    There is a companion app, one of the features of which is a video overlay mode. This will capture the sensor readings and other data in real-time as you drive and allow you to capture video from your phone with a HUD-style display for track days. To be fair, that’s a bit of window dressing compared to the main function of these devices, but it could give the nod to this versus another.

    They also offer the Kiwi 4, which has a MicroSD card on board for data capture, but it’s more expensive and appears to suffer from a high rate of defective units. If you get one that works, though, it could be a bonus since that feature isn’t available on very many of these scanners.

  8. 10. iSaddle Super Mini Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool

    Pros:
    • Compatible with Torque, OBDscope, ScanMaster, and other apps
    • Inexpensive
    • Basic code clearing for all OBD2 compliant vehicles
    Cons:
    • No companion app for smartphones (includes CD for computers)
    • Some defective units
    • Not compatible with iOS

    If you don’t need anything in the way of special features, this ultra-cheap model might be the one for you. Aside from price, the main notable feature of this option is that it’s smaller than other options. If your car’s OBD2 port is somewhere conspicuous, this will help it blend in a bit better.

    This is about as barebones as it gets. This will allow you to erase standard trouble codes and turn off that pesky check engine light on just about any vehicle. Since there are no advanced features or specialized code reading, you won’t be able to perform extensive diagnostics. This is for you if you have an older car that throws trouble codes that you’ve had checked several times only to find that there’s nothing wrong with your car. It’s also handy for cars with tricky gas caps that throw an engine code when the car thinks you’ve forgotten to put it back on.

    This scanner is for use with Android or Windows devices. For iOS support, you’ll want to look at other options on our list.

     

  9. 11. Mestart Enhanced Version Bluetooth OBD2 Car Scanner

    Pros:
    • Dirt cheap
    • Compact
    • Compatible with third-party apps
    Cons:
    • No iOS support
    • Relatively flimsy build
    • Customer support may be lacking

    If price is your only consideration and you don’t require iOS support, this is the least expensive Bluetooth OBD2 car code reader available at the time of this writing. Depending on the seller, you may even occasionally be able to find it cheaper.

    This is a barebones solution for getting your car’s information to your smartphone, most comparable to the iSaddle also on this list. Using the standard third-party apps and depending on your car’s setup, you’ll be able to easily pull trouble codes and get access to some real-time sensor data, but no enhanced or proprietary information.

    As befitting a device of this kind, customer service is limited to submitting questions via the “Ask a Question” function on their store, which typically takes 24 hours. These come with a three month warranty that can provide refunds or replacements, if necessary. At this price, though, if you only have occasional need for one of these devices, you can’t beat the price.

Why is my check engine light on?

There are two main occurrences that will cause the average car owner to panic. The first one, the appearance of the check engine light on the dashboard, often leads to the second one, the appearance of a large bill at the shop. For the most part, lights on the dashboard are a mystery to most people, and can generate considerable anxiety.

What could possibly have changed in your car to prompt this seemingly-foreboding message? And since the light invariably turns on when funds in your bank account are at their lowest, as if it somehow knows, it's not uncommon to ignore it for months and maybe even years. If the vehicle seems to be running fine, why rush to investigate? Investigating, after all, is often expensive.

When the check engine light comes on in your car, that means the car's computer has encountered an error of some kind. This could be anything from a loose fuel cap to a dead oxygen sensor. That error is logged as a code, and remains in the computer's memory until it is cleared, either with a special tool or a predetermined reset of so many engine starts without the condition recurring.

What are OBD-II codes?

The system in a car responsible for generating these codes is called on-board diagnostics, or OBD, and as of 1996, the OBD-II protocol was made mandatory for all cars to be sold in the United States. In Europe, they have EOBD, in Japan JOBD, and ADR in Australia, but they're all the same idea.

These codes are checked with what's called a scan tool, which is a standard piece of automotive technician hardware. They typically range from the relatively simple to rather more involved, but the premise is the same: a small piece of hardware with a spartan LCD screen, a few buttons, and a primitive operating system. They're pre-loaded with the trouble codes for a variety of manufacturers and help quickly assess engine performance, troubleshoot, and clear codes.

How can I reset the check engine light?

The trouble is, interpreting or clearing codes requires bringing your car to the shop. Not only do you have to make time for this, but it all but ensures that you'll end up hearing that your car needs work and that a large bill is forthcoming. Aside from that, unless you're working with a shop you really trust, you never quite know if what they're telling you is totally true, or the urgency of the issue.

While it's true that you can go to some auto parts stores to get the code read and even cleared, there could be some pressure to buy the parts right then. That's why they do it, after all. It's a good service, but they need to sell parts at the end of the day.

Fortunately, a number of professional-grade, wireless OBD2 scan tools for smartphones have entered the market. These are small modules that connect to the serial port inside your car, transmit data either over wifi or Bluetooth, and interact with any number of apps to let you read codes, clear them, and get a straight answer about what's going on.

The way these work is by translating the output of your car's computer via the OBD interface, which is a serial port available in every car, using a microcontroller. By far the most popular is the ELM327 by ELM Electronics. ELM327 Bluetooth devices form the basis for most of the options on this list, augmented by the companion apps that add higher levels of service or understanding.

These tools offer considerable convenience on a platform with which you are familiar. Everyone has a smartphone these days, but not everyone has a need for a dedicated scan tool. They won't make you into a mechanic and they won't solve all your car woes, but they will give you greater insight and help you communicate better with the folks who actually work on your car. And if you are a mechanic, or at least a weekend warrior, these handy little devices will make your life easier.

Car Code Readers vs. GPS Trackers for Cars

If you're in the market for some device that plugs into your car's OBD2 port, but you're not sure which to buy, you'll need to decide on both budget and your needs before shopping.

The devices in this list are OBD2 Bluetooth scanners, otherwise known as car code readers. While they can have other functions, their main job is to output information the car offers them and, often, translate them to plain English so you know what they mean.

By contrast, a GPS tracker is meant primarily to incidate where your car is. That said, almost all GPS trackers have an OBD2 scan tool within them, as well. Generally speaking, the devices are comparably priced to one another, except for one main difference: with GPS trackers, the subscription is very rarely optional.

In order to send information about your car's performance and location to your phone from anywhere, they rely on cellular networks. Those networks require subscription costs, as do the in-depth trip reporting often featured in GPS trackers. If you want location and trip history, go for a GPS tracker, which much of the time will include a car code scanner within it. If you just want to pull and clear codes, any device on this list will do the job.

See Also:

Disclaimer: Heavy Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs and may receive a commission if you purchase a product via a link on this page.

Read More
, ,