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The Hidden Costs of OBD2 Scanners You Need To Know About

By Joseph Kim
Published on March 4th, 2024

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Getting a mechanic to fix your car can be expensive, which is why a lot of DIYers choose to invest in an OBD2 scanner in hopes of diagnosing and fixing the car themselves. But did you know? Owning an OBD2 scanner could potentially be a money-sucker. Here’s why.

hidden costs of OBD2 scanners

Update Costs

If you only use your scan tool every once in a blue moon, you may want to reconsider whether it’s worth your money keeping the tool. Why? Because most OBD2 scan tools charge annual update fees.

This is especially true for diagnostic companies that supply high-end professional tools. These update costs can range from as little as $100 to more than a couple thousands of dollars per year.

The higher costs associated with these updates are typically justified by the available advanced diagnostic features. If you're seeking top-tier diagnostic functionalities used by mechanics, be ready to allocate an extra few hundred/thousand dollars annually.

Innova doesn't charge update fees, but we don't sell products over $600. As such, it may not have the fancy features that $1,000+ scanners have. Click here to learn more about the features our most advanced OBD2 handheld tool offers.

Why Most OBD2 Scanners Charge Update Fees

Staying up-to-date with the latest vehicles can be very expensive. Every year, manufacturers release millions of vehicles out on the road. And all of those vehicles come with fancy new computers that sometimes require new diagnostic procedures.

obd2 scanner update costs

But to keep it frank, charging update fees is how most OBD2 companies profit and make a living out of their business. After all, who wouldn’t want recurring money that’s easy to charge?

Update fees are usually reserved for professional-level tools that house advanced diagnostic capabilities like ADAS or programming features, but there are also plenty of low-end scan tools that charge annual fees.

Subscription Costs

Update fees aren’t the only things you need to be aware of before purchasing an OBD2 scanner. Keep an eye out for those fine prints called “subscription required.”

Some companies choose to charge subscription fees instead of update fees. Why? A subscription-based model is very profitable and locks-in the customer for long-term profit.

It's not to say subscription-based products are bad, however. There are plenty of good products.

obd2 scanner subscription fees

A lot of dongle-based scan tools have certain advanced features blocked by a paywall, but the features you access may be worth the cost. Just remember to do your own due diligence when researching a product and compare the long-term costs VS benefit.

Abrupt Tool Termination

Sometimes, certain OBD2 companies (especially on Amazon) advertise their products with “lifetime free updates”, which is great…only if it were true. What usually ends up happening is the product being discontinued after 2-3 years.

At that point, “lifetime free updates” don’t seem appealing anymore, does it? This is unfortunately the strategy that a lot of overseas OBD2 companies employ, causing a lot of distrust to form amongst the DIY community.

To avoid this scenario, we encourage you to purchase from reputable companies, preferably ones that are based in the USA.

What Are My Options?

If cost is a huge variable for you, I encourage you to check out Innova's OBD2 scanners. We do not charge any subscription fees or update fees, and we've been around for 30+ years so I'd say that's a good indiciation of the company's solid support system.

That said, if you're looking for advanced features like ADAS or ECU programming, our scanners do not support them at the moment. This means you'll have to look at other companies' scanners which may or may not charge additional annual fees.

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