Though automotive diagnostic scanners vary in terms of features and options, it’s true that most mechanics benefit from having one. Even in the smallest of professional shops, having a diagnostic tool on hand can help cut down on time spent trying to figure out vehicle issues.
Here are our recommendations for the best professional automotive scanners for every scenario, plus our buying guide with everything you need to know to choose the best model.
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- 1 5 Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanner For The Money
- 2 Buyer’s Guide
- 3 Questions & Answers
5 Best Professional Automotive Diagnostic Scanner For The Money
1. Autel Maxisys MS906 :
For comprehensive diagnostics in a professional-level standalone tool, Autel’s Maxisys scanner tops our list. It employs the latest technology and an extensive database for all your vehicle’s potential issues.
Autel’s scan tool is a lot like a tablet with its touchscreen functionality and independent operation. It features a rechargeable battery, so it doesn’t draw from your vehicle’s power, and it uses an Android operating system, making the navigation more intuitive than other types of scanners.
A built-in 8-megapixel camera with a flashlight helps you document real-time issues, while the OE-Level system coverage ensures you’ll find the answers you need. Beyond basic electronic systems, the unit also covers transmission, ABS, SRS, instrument panel, and other functions—far surpassing the basic casual-use scanners that are available.
Autel’s kit also comes with an array of adapters for different vehicle makes, ensuring you’ll be able to connect no matter what vehicle you’re working on. A dedicated services section also delivers functions such as oil service reset, TPMS relearn, and more, so beyond diagnostics, you have programming tools at your fingertips.
Wi-Fi connectivity ensures you always have the most updated software, but the connection also allows you to transmit data for storage or even for sharing with customers. However, updates can take some time, depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection.
- Diagnostic scanner with AutoVIN technology
- Special functions for ABS, SRS, SAS, OIL reset
- Dedicated service functions beyond diagnostics
- Covers over 80 car manufacturers
- Automatic system and software updates
- Built-in camera
- Includes one year of free updates
- Includes OBD1 kit
2. Innova Bluetooth 3160g Code Reader :
A stand-alone code reader with Bluetooth capabilities, the Innova 3160g stores and streams live data, clears error codes from vehicles, and features convenient hotkeys for quick navigation.
Innova’s 3160g scanner stands alone, which is handy, but it also features Bluetooth technology for streaming to a device or computer. With this function, you can track live data from multiple vehicles and transmit the information to a phone or computer. Software updates must take place via a wired connection to your computer, however.
The RepairSolutions app is included at no additional cost and works with both Apple and Google devices. The app connects with the reader via Bluetooth, and in addition to offering detailed code information, the app can also provide verified fix information, repair costs, step-by-step videos, and more.
While the device supports live streaming of diagnostics, you can also freeze frame the information for later use. Included diagnostics and automatic checks include battery, alternator, and charging system tests, oil and battery light reset procedures, battery initialization, and trip cycle procedures.
Other helpful features include the LED-lit connector, which is a nice addition given the fact that most OBDII ports are in obscure locations with poor visibility. The code severity indicator also helps alert you to whether an issue is major or not, while streaming the data to another device allows you to study the information further after you complete the diagnostics.
- Reads and clears codes on most 1996 and newer vehicles
- Retains data from three previously scanned vehicles
- Streams (and records) real-time data via Bluetooth
- Compatible with RepairSolutions app
- Includes OBD1 kit
- LED lighted connector for visibility
3. Autel Maxisys Pro MS908P :
With a full kit of accessories (as well as compatibility with optional add-ons), Autel’s Maxisys Pro MS908P gives professional automotive teams more diagnostic tools than other models.
Autel’s Maxisys Pro MS908P combines the features of previous models with some above and beyond additions that make this device stand out. It has programming and coding functions to suit nearly every need, and its AutoVIN technology makes it easy to work on multiple vehicles without manually entering data each time.
And if the diagnostic tools in the MS908P aren’t enough, it also offers compatibility with add-ons as well as the Digital Inspection app. Plus, you have access to MaxiFix, a cloud-based service with a database of repair and diagnostic information and tips.
Data logging ensures you won’t miss anything important during a diagnostic test, and you can save the data or even print it wirelessly from the device. The Android interface is intuitive for previous smartphone users, and the touch screen is handy and simple to navigate.
Battery power claims to last eight hours, although this will depend on which function you’re using and whether that involves using Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is another welcome feature, but again, it can affect the battery life of the device.
- J2534 Programming and ECU coding
- OE-Level diagnostic and OBDII services
- AutoVIN technology
- Compatible with add-ons such as Oscilloscope-MaxiScope MP408 and Digital Inspection Cameras
- Compatible with Windows-based PCs and Wi-Fi printers for printing
- Compatible with Digital Inspection app
- Automatic updates via Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth compatibility
4. FOXWELL NT624 PRO Scanner :
FOXWELL’s NT624 scanner is a user-friendly device with plenty of handy menu shortcuts and lifetime updates via the included TF card. Whether you want standalone performance or Wi-Fi data transfer, the NT624 has it.
FOXWELL’s handheld device provides plenty of functionality in a small package. It has oil service light reset functions, advanced EPB functionalities (only on specific manufacturers’ vehicles, however), reset and clear code abilities, live data graphing, recording of live sensor data, and freeze frame function.
With the included TF (microSD) card, you can back up data and install software updates. So not only do you have Wi-Fi for reporting stored data, but you can remove the memory card and transfer the data for safekeeping or printing.
The company offers free lifetime updates for the unit, which you can access by plugging the included TF card into your computer. But one potentially troublesome drawback for MAC users is that you can’t download the upgrade software via a MAC.
The unit requires a PC for downloading the update and transferring it to the TF card because although the device is Wi-Fi compatible, upgrades are only available via the manufacturer’s website.
And while this unit ensures compatibility across a wide range of manufacturers, there are brands that it doesn’t support; you’ll need to read the specifications carefully to ensure the vehicles you commonly work on are on the list.
- Compatible with most 1996 and newer vehicles
- Automatic VIN identification
- All 10 OBDII test modes
- Shortcut function buttons
- Wi-Fi compatibility
- Lifetime free updates
- Records live sensor data
- TF memory card for backup
5. LAUNCH X431 Mini Scan Tool
LAUNCH’s X431 is a tablet-sized scan tool with the functionality you would expect from higher-end professional tools. The kit includes accessories and adapters so you’re ready for just about anything.
The Bluetooth connectivity gives you free range on LAUNCH’s X431, and handling the unit is like using an iPad or another tablet. Though it’s a “mini,” the size of the device is still larger than most smartphones, but it is smaller and more streamlined than most scanning devices and standalone diagnostic tablets.
The tablet uses an Android platform, making the menus intuitive, but it also incorporates a camera and overall internet connectivity, too. LAUNCH specifies that you can watch videos, listen to music, and take photos with the device just like a camera or other smart device.
And those features aren’t surprising since the device is more of a tablet than a dedicated scanner; after all, we know there is software available for most tablets which works with Bluetooth-enabled OBDII connectors. In a shop setting, though, these may be unnecessary features. After all, most people have smartphones or tablets for entertainment, and some prefer a diagnostic device that doesn’t fall in line with today’s aesthetics for devices.
System diagnosis and recording functions are essential, of course, but additional features such as anti-theft matching (key coding) and tooth learning are bonuses. However, you may find that the specific functions you want don’t work with your make of vehicle; there is somewhat limited compatibility although the manufacturer notes compatibility across over 80 vehicle makes and models.
- Wi-Fi capable device
- Small, trim size
- Touchscreen functionality
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Compatible with most vehicles
Here’s what to consider when shopping for an automotive diagnostic scanner, as well as frequently asked questions on the subject.
Before buying, it’s helpful to determine what you’re looking for in a professional-quality scanner and what features are most important. Here are the top pre-purchase considerations.
For many professional shops, Wi-Fi is not yet on their radar, while for others, it’s a staple of doing business. Whatever your preference, balance that with where your business is heading and what your plans are for the future. Purchasing a Wi-Fi ready device that can also stand alone is a great option if you plan to move toward more technologically advanced equipment in the future.
However, if you don’t require connectivity and instead plan to remove the device’s memory card and transfer data to a PC, that’s an entirely different set of requirements. Therefore, it’s essential to decide which connectivity features you want and what best serves your business.
Also, device updates via Wi-Fi can be faster depending on your network speed, while SD card data transfers require you to head to the office for updates.
Printing data is also a consideration; if you have a compatible app and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, transferring or even emailing data is simple. However, if you only want to achieve hard copy printouts, there are features for that function as well.
2. Power Source and Battery Life
While many old-school scanners relied on the vehicle’s battery as a power source, the game has truly changed. Modern diagnostic scanners tend to rely on their own battery power, which can be either a plus or a negative depending on where and how you’re working on a vehicle.
Some units require overnight charging, while others may last for days on a single charge (typically without using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi functions). Others may utilize an AC adapter, which is helpful in shop settings where someone always needs to use the device and it requires nearly constant charging.
Also consider whether replacement batteries are easily accessible since a high-traffic shop might require a backup or two.
3. On-board Features and Ease of Use
With most devices these days, you can find touchscreen capabilities, Wi-Fi transmission settings, and Bluetooth connectivity. Some scanners are tablets and have all the functionality of a smart device, too.
So it’s crucial to consider which features will make or break your purchase. For example, automatic VIN scanning abilities are helpful when you’re working on different vehicles all day. Entering the information manually can become frustrating, so the automatic option is helpful in many scenarios.
Menu shortcuts and quick-keys can also be helpful, particularly if the primary function you require is part of the quick-start settings. Whatever feature you use most, it’s worth considering whether there’s a shortcut button or at least an intuitive way to achieve the desired result.
4. Included Support
For those who are less tech-savvy, having customer support available could be critical. For most of us, though, we require at least a user manual to help us navigate a new device. And with all the updates and changes to automotive scanners these days, there could be a learning curve.
Therefore, consider whether your unit comes with customer service that’s accessible or even an online manual or print version of the device guide. Also, consider whether having a full database of codes and fixes is helpful in your setting or not. For many mechanics, it’s a helpful resource, and others may never use it as they’re only searching for specific codes with a specific course of action for repairs.
Questions & Answers
Here are common FAQs on the topic of diagnostic scanners.
1. Who Needs a Professional Automotive Scanner?
In short, professionals benefit from having a quality automotive diagnostic tool, but what about the rest of us? At-home mechanics who tend to crank on their vehicles a lot will appreciate a professional-level tool with the functionality they won’t get from many diagnostic tools.
Small shops may also find that shopping for their own unit is more cost-effective than contracting with a company that provides tools and other services. After all, every shop has its own processes and specialties, so finding a pro-level device to their specifications is easier than trying to learn an entirely new process and device.
2. What is the Best Professional Scanner?
Although there are many professional scanners with tons of features, the best one for your needs is one with all the features you want that’s easy to use. After all, if it’s frustrating to navigate and doesn’t connect the way you need it to, it doesn’t matter whether someone labels it as the “best” or not.
The best way to find the scanner that’s a good fit for you is to do some research beforehand on what features are available. We’ve helped with that step, of course, but it’s up to you to figure out what are your must-haves when it comes to functions and features.
3. Do Professional Scanners Work on all Vehicles?
Whether your unit works with all vehicles (or the majority of them) depends on the manufacturer and also the vehicle brand’s preferences. Depending on a car’s make, the manufacturer might make specific settings and diagnostics nearly impossible to access. In those cases, you may have to refer clients to their brand’s dealership for even the simplest of diagnostic processes.
Overall, though, most scanners work with somewhere around 90 percent of vehicles, which are decent odds for most pro mechanics working on run-of-the-mill cars and trucks.
Whatever functions are most important to you, there’s a professional automotive diagnostic scanner with the capabilities to get the job done. From handheld devices that resemble tablets to the more familiar scanners of yesteryear, style and utility are significant considerations, too. But once you find the tool that’s the right fit, it might just make your job a whole lot easier.