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The Best OBD Scanner for Inspecting a Used Car

By Joe Ballard
Published on May 29th, 2024

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Buying a used car solely based on the seller's information can be risky, as the seller's priority is often to sell the car quickly. This does not mean sellers are dishonest; they might simply be unaware of underlying issues. This is where the Innova OBD2 scanner, with its unique features and unparalleled performance, really shines. It is not just a tool but a game-changer in the used car market.

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This scanner can augment the usual visual inspection and test drive by uncovering potential issues that could save you from costly repairs. It is your key to making an informed buying decision and potentially saving a significant amount of money. By investing in the Innova OBD2 scanner, you're not just buying a tool; you're buying peace of mind and potential savings.

Used Car Buying Basics

We’ve all been there. You see an ad for a used car that sounds perfect, so you contact the seller and make an appointment to see the car. When you see it in person, it is shiny, clean, and runs well, so you take it for a spin. So far, so good. It checks all the boxes, so what could go wrong?

Well, if you did not connect the OBD scanner and run a few tests, there could be plenty wrong that you will not find out about until it is too late. Here are just a few of the hidden problems that you can uncover with a scanner that you may overlook during your initial visual inspection:

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  • A weak or failing battery – replacement cost $150
  • Failing catalytic converter – replacement cost $2000
  • Alternator issues – replacement cost $200
  • Emissions system issues like MAP sensor or oxygen sensors – replacement costs $500
  • ABS/SRS/TPMS issues
  • Engine misfires under load
  • Transmission temperature
  • Brake pad life

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Making An Informed Buying Decision

So, by now, you may be wondering if purchasing an OBD scanner is worth the expense of checking out a used car. After all, a used car will always need something because it is, after all, a used car.

I understand this thinking as I have personally bought many used cars without using a scanner. Still, if the vehicle is new enough to have an OBD port, purchasing a scanner and taking the extra time to run a few diagnostics before you buy the car is worth it. Innova also provides a RepairSolutions2 app that can be downloaded to your smartphone. It is free with the purchase of the OBD scanner and is extremely useful for providing more information about the identified problem. It even includes details on the part and the cost to replace it.

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Here, I am using the Innova 5610 OBD scanner and RepairSolutions2 app to check out my 2003 Mazda Miata. I purchased this car 2 years ago, and since then, I have encountered a couple of issues. One was replacing the MAP Sensor, and the other was replacing the rear brake pads and rotors. There could be other issues lurking that will show up in the future, but now that I have the OBD scanner and RepairSoultions2 app, I can be proactive and fix issues before they fail out on the road.

Consider this. If the OBD scanner and RepairSolutions2 only identify a bad catalytic converter, for example, it just saved you $2000 in repairs down the road. Having this knowledge of actual issues with the car you are considering purchasing gives you enormous leverage in negotiating the final purchase price.

Taking this extra step could potentially save you big bucks down the road. The other thing to keep in mind is that purchasing an OBD scanner will also enable you to diagnose and repair any issues with your car that may crop up later. It is a very good investment, especially for older used cars with a few miles on the odometer. If you are a DIYer, you probably already have an OBD scanner, so you understand where I am coming from with this advice.

Key Takeaways

  • There is always some risk with purchasing a used car. No matter how thorough your analysis is, you can still miss something. Using an OBD scanner with the RepairSolutions2 app will at least help you uncover hidden problems that even the most comprehensive visual inspection will not reveal.
  • These hidden problems are usually the costliest to repair, so it is important to find them before you buy. Additionally, if you uncover hidden issues, you have more negotiating power with the seller regarding the purchase price. Knowing the cost of repairs in advance is helpful so you do not overpay and get stuck with additional expenses later.
  • Another recommendation I would offer is to ensure the OBD scanner will support your car. Many online tools and manufacturers' websites allow you to enter your vehicle information to verify that your car is supported. The Innova site also has a coverage checker tool that will help you check if Innova's scanners will work with your vehicle and what they can do.


Since 1996, every car manufactured in the USA must have an OBD port to provide access to the diagnostic codes generated by the Electronic Management System (EMS). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resource Board (CARB) mandated this port.

This mandate revolutionized car servicing and spawned the OBD scanner industry. This has been incredibly beneficial for the used car market and, specifically, the used car buyer because the sellers can no longer get away with selling cars that have hidden issues. When a buyer is armed with an OBD scanner and uses it to diagnose potential problems, everyone walks away from the deal, knowing that they were treated fairly.

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