Top 3 BMW OBDII diagnostic scanner from cheapest to most expensive

For BMW E9X, here are your options for diagnostics from cheapest to most expensive:

1) BMW INPA or ISTA Software (Free) on a windows laptop and a $15 K+D Can cable.
Ista D and Inpa together will do more than anything else.
Ista D is what BMW used in there dealerships for years.
Inpa is there Engineering development tool.
You can do any type of coding with Inpa well beyond the canned
routines you get with things like Carly.
Ista D is like having a shop manual with guided troubleshooting. It also has schematics and mechanical diagrams
its something like 50 gigs of space on a disk.

The catch is you have to know your way around a PC and it you have
Apple products you have to run these programs inside a Virtual machine. It will also require effort to set up and learn to steer either of these.

2) Foxwell NT510 or NT520 Scanner loaded with the BMW software (£150) (Software for other makes are available for download at $60 a pop).
foxwell-nt520-bmw-preinstalled-02 foxwell-nt520-bmw-preinstalled-03

OBD access comes in two flavors: Generic and OEM-specific. ALL cars since the late ’90s MUST support “Generic” access. This supports a wide range of generic ENGINE-ONLY codes and VERY basic functions, like clearing faults and resetting the SES light. For many simple repairs, like a mis-fire, this is enough, for many, like turbo faults, it doesn’t even come close. These devices provide NO access to the MANY other controllers in the car, like transmission, airbags, etc.

Each manufacturer also provides their own, unique OEM-specific codes, which often provide MUCH more specific faults. The “cheap”, generic code readers CANNOT read or reset these. Each manufacturers interface is different, so a scanner than can access the Ford OEM-specific information cannot, in general, access any other manufacturers OEM-specific information.

The expensive, professional-level scanners typically provide access to most, or all, manufacturers OEM-specific information, but those scanners also typically cost $2-5K. Peake has inexpensive BMW-specific tools, for ~£150.
The ONLY low-cost tool I’ve ever seen that support multiple OEMs is the Foxwell NT510/520, which is £150, and allows multiple OEM-specific software packages to be purchased and loaded into the device for ~$60 each. The BMW-software for the NT510 is EXCELLENT, and provides access to not only the engine computer, but virtually ALL computers on the car – Engine, transmission, brakes, ABS, Traction Control, Air Bags, Audio, Navigation, Climate Control, Locks, Alarm, etc. etc.

In my book, the ONLY scanner to buy at the present time is the Foxwell. The initial £150 purchase includes ONE OEM-specific software package, so if you ONLY need a BMW scanner, £150 is your total price. It is an EXCELLENT scanner, and mine has already paid for itself many times over in the ~9 months I’ve owned it.

3) Autel Maxisys or Maxidas DS808 ($700 to $2500). This is a professional level diagnostics tool that mechanics and repair facilities will use. It does everything that BMW ISTA/INPA and Foxwell NT510/NT520 can do but the advantage is that it comes loaded with software for all Makes and Models (Asian, European, American).

If you have multiple cars in your family, the “best value” is the Autel Maxidas DS808. At around $700 it covers every make and model. We have 2 BMWs, 1 Honda, 1 Toyota, 1 Lexus.


All 3 of these options are better than a generic OBD2 scanner in that these have the ability to connect to each individual module on the car and read manufacturer specific codes.

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