The Best OBD2 Scanner for You Depends on if You Want an All-in-One or Bits-and-Pieces Car Scanner.
There are numerous OBD2 scanners out there, with hundreds of options of different features and functionality. In this article, we cover two popular car scanners and OBD2 apps, FIXD vs. ELM327, so that you can make an informed decision.
What Should I Know Before Buying An OBD2 Scanner?
Not sure which is better: FIXD vs. ELM327? While both are in our top 10 best OBD2 scanners, they differ in form and function. Before you decide which is right for you, it’s important to know what to look for in a scan tool.
Every gas-powered vehicle made since 1996, as well as diesels since 2008, has OBD2, or “on-board diagnostics version 2.” This is a system designed for mechanics to plug their scan tool into a standardized port on every car, regardless of make or model, to access data and diagnostic information stored in the car’s computer, as well as turn off the Check Engine light.
Today, tools like FIXD, ELM327, and others enable owners to access this data themselves. With a scan tool, smartphone, and the appropriate app, you can read the same information as the professionals at home. Even if you can’t fix the problems yourself, you’ll at least have an idea what the problem is when you take your car to the shop. All you need is an OBD2 scan tool that is compatible with your car.
(RELATED: Where Is My OBD2 Port?)
Key Features To Look For in an OBD2 Scan Tool
Diagnose and Reset CEL
The main reason people buy an OBD2 scanner is because the car’s check engine light has turned on, and they want to find out why. This feature alone can save you $100+ by avoiding a diagnostic service fee at the repair shop. You can also reset the check engine light yourself, which clears the codes and turns off the light.
Issue Severity Warnings
Some issues are rather serious, while others will have no effect on how your car runs and drives. A simple light on your dashboard can’t tell you what kind of problem caused it to turn on.
Some OBD2 scanners not only tell you what your check engine light means in simple terms but also how severe the issue is. That way, you know whether your car is safe to drive until you can get it checked, or if you need to park it immediately.
Real-Time Vehicle Health Monitoring
If you’re a car enthusiast, you might be interested in watching your car’s data in real time. A good scan tool will let you select and watch numerous parameters and types of data available from your car’s computer, from engine and vehicle speed to fuel trims to oxygen sensor voltage. This makes it easy to check car performance on the go.
DIY Repair Guidance
An OBD2 scan tool is a great addition to your toolbox. The best kind is one that accurately diagnoses engine problems and suggests possible fixes with helpful blogs and videos to walk you through repairs. You could save hundreds of dollars repairing or replacing the defective part yourself rather than paying a shop to do it.
Automated Maintenance Alerts
Regular maintenance is the best way to make your car last and avoid problems down the road. Some scan tools can send you automated maintenance alerts based on your specific make, model, and mileage so you never miss an important oil change or other services. This is a rare feature with OBD2 scanners, but extremely helpful in extending the lifespan of your vehicle.
Connect Wirelessly via Bluetooth
Wires always seem to turn into a tangled mess when you’re not using them. Untangling the flying spaghetti monster is the last thing you want to deal with when you’re stuck on the side of the road. Make sure your OBD2 scanner is wireless and connects to your iOS or Android smartphone using Bluetooth technology for the fastest and most convenient engine diagnostics.
OBD2 scanners span a wide range of prices, from under $20 to over $2000. Unless you’re a professional automotive technician or specialist, you don’t need an expensive professional scanner. Just be sure to find a tool that offers transparent pricing so you know what you’re paying for up front.
FIXD has sold over 2 million FIXD Sensors. The free FIXD app has more than 10,000 five-star reviews. It’s priced affordably at just $59 and delivers massive value at that price point.
The FIXD OBD2 scanner is extremely easy to use. Just plug in the scanner, install the free app, follow the instructions, and it just works. The data display inside the free FIXD app is much more user-friendly than other scan tools. It features a mix of text and visual data, including charts and graphs, that make it easy to understand what’s going on inside your vehicle.
It not only reads most engine codes but also translates them into plain English so that anyone can understand what they mean. If you have a trouble code, FIXD gives you a list of possible fixes for and links to in-depth OBD2 code descriptions and DIY repair videos to help you fix simple issues yourself.
FIXD is far more than just a trouble code, reader, though. It also has Automated Maintenance Alerts so you never forget an oil or filter change. Multi-Vehicle Health Monitoring lets you connect multiple FIXD Sensors to every car you own and monitor their health in real-time from your smartphone.
FIXD is an American-owned company based in Atlanta, Georgia. They stand behind their quality products with a 100% risk-free money-back guarantee.
Pros & Cons of FIXD
|FIXD PROS||FIXD CONS|
|Comprehensive, U.S. designed OBD2 scanner that’s a great value at $59||Doesn’t read ALL engine codes, such as ABS, Airbag, and some proprietary manufacturer codes|
|App is designed for anyone to easily use, even if you know nothing about cars||Only reads transmission codes in certain makes and models|
|Translates 7000+ engine codes into plain, simple terms in minutes||Doesn’t offer ability to custom encode your vehicle|
|Compatible with iPhone & Android|
|Sends automatic maintenance reminders so you never miss an oil change or other important service|
|Offers users the ability to connect up to 5 FIXD Sensors to one phone, so they can remotely monitor the whole family’s fleet of vehicles and know when it’s time to schedule service – even if the car is hundreds of miles away|
|Backed by 1-year warranty, plus no-risk money back guarantee|
Everyday drivers to amateur DIYers and car enthusiasts with a “hands-on” approach to caring for their cars and saving money with at-home repairs and maintenance.
Elm Electronics is a small Canadian business that sells microchips designed to interface with a car’s OBD2 system. It supports most OBD2 protocols, and will communicate with almost any gas-powered car 1996 or newer. This means that it should work with the vast majority of OBD2 cars and trucks out there, but not all of them. Countless third-party companies use these chips in OBD2 scanners of their own design. Most companies still sell them under the model name of the microchip they use, the ELM327.
There are two versions of the ELM327 available. One connects to your phone by Bluetooth, and the other by WiFi. Similar to BAFX, the ELM327 will not connect to an iOS device by Bluetooth. Unlike BAFX, though, the ELM327 is also available in a WiFi version that works with an iPhone or iPad. You will need to choose the correct version for your particular device, but both options are available. On the WiFi version, you will have to connect your phone to the ELM327’s WiFi manually before your OBD2 app will connect to your car. You will not be able to access your home WiFi network while connected to the ELM327, however.
The ELM327 is the least expensive OBD2 interface we have found, with Bluetooth and WiFi versions selling for anywhere from $10 to $25 on Amazon. What you are buying, however, is only the interface that plugs into your car, unlike the FIXD Scanner and App which provides everything you need. You will need to download third-party software, such as Torque or DashCommand, to access your car’s diagnostic information. Some configuration between the app and the interface may be required, especially with the WiFi version, which could be an issue for less technically inclined people.
Additionally, features such as diagnostic code descriptions, real-time monitoring, and automated maintenance alerts are entirely dependent on which third-party app you use. Some free apps exist that will give you basic information, but often you will have to spend more money to unlock more advanced features such as these if they’re even available at all.
The upside is the flexibility this offers the OBD2 “Power User.” Because it’s as simple as it is,I haven’t yet found a third-party app the ELM327 will not work with. This includes everything from engine diagnostics to performance data to custom coding the options and features of your car, a function that FIXD does not provide. If the app can do it, the ELM327 will enable it.
According to Elm’s website, the company will be closing in June 2022, so the ELM327 will no longer be available with microchips from the original manufacturer. Other companies have made copies of the original chips, but there’s no telling whether they will match the quality or functionality of the original designer and manufacturer.
Pros & Cons of ELM327
|ELM327 PROS||ELM327 CONS|
|At $10-25, the ELM327 interface is extremely affordable, and less expensive than FIXD||ELM327 is an interface only, requiring third-party software to provide full functionality|
Guaranteed to work with most OBD2 protocols
Actual cost to use may be more depending on the price of the third-party app
|Bluetooth and WiFi versions ensure compatibility with both iOS and Android devices||iOS devices require you to manually connect to its built-in WiFi before your app will connect to your car|
|Compatible with numerous third-party iOS and Android apps, including custom encoding apps||Separate devices required for iOS and Android|
|Small chance your car may use an OBD2 protocol the ELM327 does not support|
The budget user who wants to spend as little as possible, and the “power user” who wants the maximum flexibility to use any app they want, including those providing features that FIXD does not.
FIXD vs. ELM327 Key Features at a Glance
|Price||$59, Free Shipping (includes FIXD Sensor and free app)||$10-25, Plus Shipping (includes Adapter ONLY)|
|Amazon Customer Rating||4.1/5||3.9-4.1/5|
|Technology Designed In USA||✔|
|Diagnose and Reset CEL||✔||✔|
|Know Issue Severity||✔|
|Real-Time Vehicle Health Monitoring||✔|
|DIY Repair Guidance||✔|
|Automated Maintenance Alerts||✔|
|Multi-Vehicle Remote Monitoring||✔|
|Wireless Bluetooth Connectivity||✔||✔|
|Android & iOS Compatible||✔||✔|
FIXD vs. ELM327: Which Is Better?
Whether FIXD or ELM327 is the best OBD2 scanner depends on who you are and why you need a scan tool. We’ve ranked each scan tool in the following categories to give you a better idea of which to buy:
|Budget Shopper||Everyday Driver||Amateur DIYer||Power User|
|🏆 ELM327||🏆 FIXD||🏆 FIXD||🏆 ELM327|
|If a low price is your main concern, and you don’t mind setting up a separate app (and WiFi for the iOS version), the budget shopper will still spend less to unlock basic diagnostic capabilities with the ELM 327 interface and a third-party app than it would cost to buy the FIXD Interface and app.||For everyday drivers who want to understand the check engine light without spending time and money at the repair shop, FIXD is the champ. The app looks great, is ultra-easy to use, and gives you everything you need to know about your car in plain English.||Both ELM327 and FIXD make it easy to read and reset your engine light. But FIXD takes it to the next level with a list of possible fixes and DIY repair guidance. With FIXD Premium, you can even contact a FIXD Mechanic for help with at-home repairs and more.||Since the ELM327 is just a basic interface from your phone to your car, the sky’s the limit on what you can do with it. You can use apps to custom encode your car’s settings and features, a function not available with FIXD.|
Best Overall Winner: FIXD
For the best overall value with transparent pricing and features all drivers can enjoy, FIXD takes the win. Learn more and see special offers at fixd.com.
Recovering autocross and track day enthusiast. Once turned a VW Jetta into a pickup truck. Lives in a van down by the river. Dream car: 2001 Subaru WRC rally car.