The 8 Best Car Code Readers to Buy in 2018

FOXWELL NT301 Car Obd2 Code Scanner

Is there anything that can ruin your day faster than a “check engine” light turning on in your car unexpectedly? Without a trip to the mechanic, you don’t know if you’re just in for an oil change or something much more involved. Save yourself some stress by getting your own car code reader. A car code reader allows you to diagnose car problems without necessarily needing a trip to the shop by simply plugging it into your car’s computer system and reading the “trouble code” that it displays. We’ve picked some of the top car code readers available today, so check out our list below to see which one is perfect for you.

Our Top Picks

Easiest-to-Use: Ancel Classic OBD Scanner

Ancel Classic OBD Scanner
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The Ancel Classic OBD Scanner is easy to use even for those who are not comfortable working on cars. It works on most cars made in the U.S. after 1996 or made in the EU or Asia after 2000 and supports multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish, Russian and German. The large LCD display has a white backlight to make it easy to read even in dim lighting. If it turns out that your code isn’t serious, this device can turn off that annoying check engine light. The scanner comes with a 2.5-foot long well-insulated cable that connects with your car’s OBDII data link connector; no other battery or charger is required as it powers up through that link. A three-year warranty means you can rest easy choosing this scanner. 

Best Warranty: Veepeak OBD 2 Scanner

The affordable Veepeak VP30 CAN OBDII Scanner is a quick and easy way to diagnose trouble codes and their definitions for all OBDII-compliant cars and light trucks. Handily, the Veepeak scanner supports multiple trouble code requests, including generic codes, pending codes and manufacturer-specific codes. You can even use this device to check the emission readiness status of your vehicle or retrieve your VIN on vehicles made after 2002. Simply plug in this device, so that it can communicate with your vehicle’s onboard computer – no additional batteries or power source needed. The device itself will give you the trouble code, which you can then look up in the included user manual. The manufacturer offers a 30-day money back guarantee and a 12-month hassle-free replacement warranty. 

Best Built-In Library: Foxwell NT301 Car OBD2 Code Scanner

Like some of the other options on our list, the Foxwell NT301 Car OBD2 Code Scanner can quickly read and erase engine fault codes, but it also provides on-screen code definitions and a built-in code look-up library to quickly and easily allow you to determine the cause of your check engine light without needing a separate manual or any other reference. Automatic VIN acquisition helps this scanner grab manufacturer specific codes, too. This scanner also shows live vehicle sensor data in text and graph format, which gives you additional tools to figure out what is going on with your car. The full-color screen is easy on the eyes and the red-yellow-green LED indicator helps you quickly check emission monitor status and catch intermittent problems too. 

Best Value: Topdon OBD2 Scanner

For a very affordable price, you can pick up this Topdon OBD2 Scanner that works with most cars and lights trucks that are compliant with CAN and OBD2 protocols. Save money by reading and clearing generic and manufacturer-specific diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) and turning off that check engine light quickly without wasting time and money on an unnecessary trip to the mechanic shop. Despite its budget-friendly price this little scanner also reads and provides VIN information, which can really help you out if you’re in a pinch needing to order parts or new keys.  A backlit LCD screen displays eight characters at a time and you can search Topdon’s DTC library with over 7,000 DTC definitions to help you figure out your car’s codes.  

Best Budget: OxGord OBD2 Car Scanner

If you want to pick up a car code scanner, but are watching your money, you can’t beat the price of the OxGord OBD2 Car Scanner. Despite its inexpensive price, it is still compatible with most OBD2-compliant vehicles and can read universal diagnostic trouble codes – both generic and manufacturer-generated. If you are handy with vehicles, you can use this scanner to fix simple car problems yourself without having to spend money and valuable time at a mechanic. The scanner comes with an OBD2 16-pin connector cable – no additional cables, batteries or chargers are needed. 

Best for Smartphone Users: Wsiiroon Car WIFI OBD2 Scanner

This high-quality Wsiiroon Wi-Fi scanner has a different design than most of the other devices on our list, but it can still read diagnostic trouble codes (both generic and manufacturer-specific) and instantly show you their meaning by searching the 3,000+ generic code definitions in the database. Use the scanner in conjunction with three different apps – the free OBD Car Doctor app for iOS, the free Torque Pro app for Android devices, as well as the DashCommand app for $9.99. In conjunction with these apps, this scanner can display current sensor data, including engine RPM, coolant temperature, fuel system status, intake air temperature, air flow rate, oxygen sensor information and fuel pressure.  

Most Compact: Udiag OBD2 Scanner

The Udiag CR600 engine error code reader can read engine fault codes, clear trouble codes, turn off the “check engine” light, as well as view both live and freeze frame data for all OBDII-compliant U.S., European and Asian vehicles. This scanner is small, but mighty, making it very portable and compact enough to hold and operate using only one hand. The rugged rubberized housing gives it a good grip and protects it from bumps and spills. The ​Udiag scanner comes in red or blue instead of a neutral color, so you can show off a little personality with your choice, too. The code definitions can be displayed in multiple languages, including English, French, German or Spanish. 

Best Splurge: Wsiiroon Professional OBD2 Car Code Scanner

If you are a car enthusiast and can handle fixing a lot of your own car problems, this little scanner will quickly pay for itself with all the trips to the mechanic you’ll be able to avoid. The Wsiiron Professional OBD2 car code scanner features an array of diagnostic functions, including reading and clearing trouble codes, query freeze frame data, reading dynamic datastream, O2 sensor testing, VAP system testing, onboard monitor testing and more useful options.

It can display information in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Russian or Portuguese, and it’s powered directly by the OBD2 data link connector in your vehicle with no additional devices, chargers, batteries or other cords required. Red-Yellow-Green LED indicators allow you to easily determine whether your vehicle meets emissions standards, too. The extra-large color LCD screen shows you the codes directly and the unit provides audio feedback and LED indicator lights to help you understand the trouble code’s status.