The 4 Best Car Code Readers of 2023

Pinpoint problems and save yourself a trip to the mechanic

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More than just for mechanics, the best car code readers are a simple way to pinpoint issues with your car before you shell out some serious cash for a mechanic. If you have a bit of a black thumb or are just looking to learn more about the inner workings of your car, a car code reader is a great place to start.

While they can't fix your car's mechanical problems, they can tell you where to begin. These tools are a must-have for anyone looking to purchase a second-hand vehicle, allowing you to quickly reveal any glaring inadequacies the previous owner may have failed to mention.

Easiest to Use

Ancel Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner

ANCEL Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II Scanner


What we like
  • Easy to use keypad

  • Compact Design

  • No battery required

What we don't like
  • Low reader accuracy

  • Some compatibility issues

The Ancel Classic OBD Scanner is easy to use, even for those uncomfortable working on cars. It works on most cars made in the U.S. after 1996 or in the EU or Asia after 2000 and supports multiple languages, including English, French, Spanish, Russian, and German. The large LCD 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. 

Bluetooth: No | Built-in Display: Yes | Dimensions: 9.02"x6.34"x1.38" | Weight: 9.6 Oz

Best for Smartphone Users

BlueDriver Professional OBDII Scanner

BlueDriver Bluetooth Pro OBDII Scan Tool


What we like
  • American made

  • User-friendly

  • Durable

What we don't like
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections are a bit spotty

The BlueDriver OBDII Scanner isn’t the cheapest option out there, but seeing as it’s aimed at those who want more professional readings than you can get from all-in-one units, that’s to be expected. This tiny sensor, once installed, transmits codes, errors, and information via Bluetooth to the BlueDriver app. This app is the centerpiece of the whole unit, as it’s one of the most beautifully designed and full-featured pieces of software we’ve seen. You can call up codes, search them, and even set the app into HUD mode to treat it as an onboard meter.

What’s extra interesting about this is the 24/7 support, meaning you can contact an actual human if you need more information on a particular reading. You can even have the app generate on-demand repair reports compiled and verified by certified technicians. These repair reports are pulled from a database of over 6.6 million vehicle-specific diagnostics, so chances are, you can pull one up for your specific vehicle. 

Bluetooth: Yes | Built-in Display: No | Dimensions: 2.2"x1.9"x1" | Weight: 2.08 Oz

Best Bluetooth

BAFX Products Bluetooth OBDII Scan Tool

Wireless Bluetooth Diagnostic OBD2 Scanner


What we like
  • Plays well with third-party apps

  • Offers a variety of diagnostic functions

What we don't like
  • No support for iOS devices

If you need a no-nonsense car code reader, the BAFX Bluetooth scan tool is easily the smallest and most budget-friendly option on our list. This reader may lack an integrated display but can still provide readouts to your OBD reader app of choice on either your Android or iOS device.

Like most readers on our list, the BAFX Bluetooth scanner is compatible with almost any vehicle manufactured after 1996 and can provide real-time data on EOT, RPM, 02 readings, and more. Provided you aren't using this reader in a professional environment, the BAFX Bluetooth scan tool is a solid option for most users.

Bluetooth: Yes | Built-in Display: No | Dimensions: 4.41"x3.23"x1.38" | Weight: 3.1 Oz

Best Compact

Ancel BD310

ANCEL Diesel Scan Tool


What we like
  • Small and Light

  • Works as a handheld or with a phone

What we don't like
  • Interface is rudimentary

The most compact model on our list, the Ancel BD310, is a pocket-sized OBD2 scanner that can be used independently or paired with apps on your Android or iOS device. The BD310 features a straightforward interface, with four buttons for navigating menus on the built-in LCD screen.

This capable code reader provides advanced diagnostics, including readouts for engine RPM, coolant temperature, fuel consumption, and SMOG readiness. What's important to note is that while this scanner can be used independently, we highly recommend pairing it with your smartphone for better navigation. The buttons built into the BD310 are a bit clunky for navigating everything.

Bluetooth: Yes | Built-in Display: Yes | Dimensions: 9.5"x6.1"x1.5" | Weight: 11.2 Oz

What to Look For in a Car Code Reader

Ease of Use

If you haven’t had a car code reader before, purchase a simple one. These scanners can have pretty advanced functionality, so find one that isn’t too confusing and will help you figure out what’s wrong with your vehicle without too many steps.


Car code readers can come in at many different price points. Remember the features you need to get the best value for your money. If you frequently use the reader, it may be worth spending a little extra to get the bells and whistles of the fancier devices.

Codes and Sensor Readings

What kind of codes—manufacturer, generic, etc.—and vehicle sensor readings do you need your reader to be able to interpret? Make sure you choose a model that's compatible with your particular car.

  • Do code readers work on all cars?

    OBD2 car code readers will work on all cars with onboard diagnostic software. OBD2 is a universal interface in most cars that was first introduced in the 1980s. While it won't work on every old car out there, as long as your vehicle is somewhat new, you should be covered. Almost all newer cars will support it.

  • Are car code readers worth it?

    Car code readers are relatively inexpensive, making them a worthwhile investment if you want to pinpoint an issue with your vehicle without having to take it to an expensive mechanic. A car code reader allows you to read and clear codes, view basic parameter IDs, check and reset readiness monitors. This gives you a good way to tell if the problem is something you can fix easily before shelling out to a car shop, potentially saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

  • Who makes the best car code readers?

    We like the Ancel Classic Enhanced Universal OBD II scanner because of how easy to use. It's a great choice for beginners, and it works for most cars made in the U.S. after 1996 or the EU/Asia after 2000. The LCD display is large and easy to read, and it supports a three-year warranty.

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