Automotive Tool Review

Autel Scan Tools Versus Snap-On: Which Should You Buy?

Autel Versus Snap-On in Automotive Scan Tools

When it comes to automotive diagnostic scan tools, both Autel and Snap-On have made names for themselves as high-quality and reliable tools to do everything from testing emissions systems to finding misfires and even diagnosing brake systems on late model vehicles that use more electronics. When it comes to choosing which scan tool is best for you or your auto repair shop, there’s a very good chance that Autel and Snap-On will be in the top two results of your search.

With that being said, one has to be better than the other right? Or is it the case that both Autel and Snap-On are completely viable options for your diagnostic needs and some other factor like price or the brand of vehicle you specialize in will be the driving factor in your decision between the two automotive scan tools? In this post, I’m going to look at some of the benefits and downsides to both Autel and Snap-On scan tools with the goal of helping you choose which is the best choice for a diagnostic scanner in your tool box.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Scan Tool

Aside from hoists, presses or other machining tools, a technicians biggest investment in terms of tools is often his or her diagnostic scan tool. With that being said, there are several things you should consider before deciding on which scan tool is right for you. It’s not like a set of screw drivers that can be bought for less than $100. OBD scanners are priced in the thousands from both Snap-On and Autel. So the hope is that once you choose which scan tool to buy, it will be the one you stick with for a while.

How Much Does it Cost?

Money is something I don’t personally like to part with, so when I do so I try to make sure I’m getting the best amount of value from the money I spend. So, when buying a scan tool that is regardless going to be at least four figures, it’s important to look at the price point and then examine the features, capabilities and limitations of that particular scan tool.

Autel’s powerful MaxiSys MS906 Pro can be bought for around $1,500 on Amazon. 

Autel and Snap-On scan tools are both in the high-end category of scan tools. Autel has a range of options that start at only $39 for a basic plug-in model that has limited uses but does offer the benefit of being highly portable and easy to use. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out this Autel AL319.

Snap-On also offers lower end models but they are not made by the company and are branded as Blue-Point. For the purpose of this post though, we are going to look at scan tools at the higher end of the spectrum. We want to compare the price of Autel’s higher end scanners like the MaxiSys MS906 and MaxiSys Elite to that of models like the Snap-On Apollo D-9 and Triton D-10.


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Autel MaxiSys Price Range

Ill start with the price of Autel’s MaxiSys line of scan tools that can be bought right on Amazon usually at a discount to anywhere else. Comparing the price of Autel scan tools to Snap-On is inherently difficult because both company’s offer so many different options with each one having its own features and limitations. I’m going to do my best to give you a decent idea of the price of an Autel and then the price of a Snap-On though.

Starting around $500, Autel offers the MaxiCom 808 which is on the lower end of a high-end line of diagnostic scan tools. Although the Autel 808 is a highly capable automotive scan tool, it is considered on the lower end in terms of features. In order to buy an Autel scan tool that compares to any of the Snap-On models mentioned like the Apollo and Triton, it’s going to cost a little more.

Autel’s newest flagship model scan tool in 2023 is the MaxiSys Elite which starts around $3500 on Autel’s website or you can buy the updated 2023 version on Amazon for a pretty decent discount.

Picture from Amazon of the Autel MaxiSys Elite with all of the coding functions ECU programming and tablet screen that runs on Android
Buying Autel scan tools on Amazon can fetch you a hefty discount compared to the price on Autel’s official website.

Snap-On Scan Tool Price Range

Snap-On tools have a reputation amongst auto technicians that is rivaled by virtually no one else in the tool industry. Milwaukee tools has gained a lot of popularity and for good reason, but without an OBD diagnostic scan tool in its lineup leaves Autel as the biggest major threat to the company’s scan tools. This point is especially true given the difference in price between a Snap-On scan tool and an Autel.

Although Snap-On also has somewhat of a hierarchy in terms of its diagnostic scan tools, the starting price for any of the company’s brand new high-end models is closer to the price of Autel’s most expensive models like the MaxiSys MS919 Elite.

Starting around $5,000 and only going up, Snap-On’s Apollo and Triton scan tools are the company’s most popular models in 2023. At such a premium to an Autel scanner, are these Snap-On models worth buying over a MaxiSys Elite?

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Autel Versus Snap-On Features

We have now established that Autel scan tools are a fair amount cheaper than Snap-On but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should run right out and buy the newest version of a MaxiSys Elite. Before doing that, it’s worth taking a look at the features of each company’s scan tools and see if perhaps the difference in price between the two might be justified.

Of course both Snap-On and Autel offer all of the traditional features of a high-end diagnostic scan tool. Features like emissions testing, bidirectional controls, ABS testing, TPMS monitoring and programming come standard on pretty much every model Snap-On offers and all of the higher end Scan tools sold by Autel. So what sets the two brands apart from each other? And why are Autel scanners cheaper than Snap-On?


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Why is Autel cheaper than Snap-On?

I’ll be honest most of my personal experience with scan tools comes from the Snap-On Solus and Triton D-10 because that’s what my repair shop always had. I have recently though been able to use the Autel MaxiSys Elite. Here is my biggest observation and my opinion on how Autel can sell its scan tools at such a lesser price to Snap-On’s.

It seems to come down to a pair of things. First is the hardware. Autel’s scan tool hardware is a little bit cheaper of a design than those Snap-On Triton’s and Solus’ I’ve used in the past. Second is the software. Not to be confused with the functionality, because Autel scan tools are super capable but the user interface is a tad bit dated and not as user-friendly as the Snap-On scanners.

Autel and Snap-On Main Features

Back to the features, because ultimately I think that’s the most important thing to consider when buying a professional diagnostic scan tool. Whether you are a repair shop owner buying a scan tool as a “shop tool” or you are a tech looking to have your own high end scanner, it’s all going to come down to the features. So starting with the Autel, here are some of the main features that matter when buying a scan tool.

Autel Main Features, Functions

Its not a coincidence that Autel has grown to be the Snap-On competitor it has. The company sells feature rich products (like the PS100 probe tester I reviewed here) at a steep discount to other electronic diagnostic tools. Here are some of the main features offered by the MaxiSys MS919 Elite.

Autel ms919 versus snap on auto scan tool
As you can see, the ~$3800 Autel MS919 is a powerhouse in terms of vehicle coverage and intelligent automotive diagnostics and programming.
10,000+ Vehicle Coverage

One of Autel’s most popular claims is that it’s MaxiSys Elite has a 10,000+ vehicle coverage system. This list of 10k includes makes and models from all over the globe. US, Euro, Japanese, Chinese- Autel has coverage for all of them and are known to offer the most extensive data on import vehicles in the United States. In fact, Autel’s compatibility with brands like VW/Audi, BMW and other European brands has been a major selling point due to Snap-On’s limited data and compatibility with these popular brands.

Autel’s Intelligent Diagnostics

Along with its extensive coverage of US, European and Asian vehicles, Autel also has an advanced intelligent diagnostics interface. With this intelligent diagnostic service from Autel comes a wealth of DTC knowledge, relevant cases regarding the fault codes presented and even access to any relevant technician service bulletins or “tsb’s” which are manufacturer specific procedures that are relevant to the codes being presented. In an increasingly difficult diagnostic landscape, the importance of and uses for an intelligent diagnostic interface can not be overstated.

ECU Level Coding Abilities

One of the biggest crazes in automotive electrical a few years back was J2534. Everyone in the automotive repair industry had to have a module that could communicate with SAE standard J2534. Clearly Autel was paying attention because all of its newest high-end scan tools come with the ability to “pass through” to read and write ECU programs. This means the Autel MaxiSys MS919 and even the MS909 can program ECU’s and also make changes that could increase fuel economy, performance among other things.

Autel MS909 Lab Scope

Autel’s MS909 comes with a compatible lab scope, which I find to be one of the most important add-ons for any automotive scan tool. Since automotive electrical systems are becoming increasingly complex every single day, there is no good reason I can think of to not include an oscilloscope in a high end scan tool in 2023.

KeyFob Programming

Programming a keyfob isn’t the end all-be all in terms of features in an automotive scan tool, but Autel having the ability to do so does not hurt the appeal of owing an MS909 or MS919. With even key fobs growing in complexity these days, having the ability to add or program a new one to most vehicles can be seen as an important feature.

Cross Compatibility With Autel IR100 MaxiIRT

One of the best new features of the Autel MaxiSys line of scan tools is the cross compatibility with Autel’s new thermal imager, the IR100 MaxiIRT.

What’s nice about being compatible with the IR camera is auto techs can wirelessly upload pictures taken with the thermal imaging camera and use them to compare data alongside diagnostic codes and PID’s from the scan tool.

Autel Diagnostic Scan Tool Reviews

Another important factor to consider when deciding between an Autel scan tool or a Snap-On scanners is each company’s respective reviews. First, I will dive a little bit into the reviews of Autel’s flagship MaxiSys MS919 and some of Autel’s mid-level professional scan tools.

How are Amazon and YouTube Reviews of Autel Scan Tools?

Any time I look at the features and functions of or compare a scan tool to another, one of the first things I look for are user reviews, especially if it is a tool that I have not had the pleasure of using myself. YouTube and Amazon are both good places to start looking for rating and reviews of a tool, so I did that with the Autel MaxiSys MS919 and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. One YouTube review and unboxing if the MS919 gives viewers a good look at the high-quality design and many features of the MaxiSys MS919.

Moving forward to Amazon, there are many different product listings for the Autel scan tools, so finding an overall rating is not as easy as with some products. Here are a few of the most well thought out reviews that I could find for the MS919 on Amazon.

“I purchased the MS909 on 7/11 and received it by 7/14. The scan tool hasn’t been back in the storage case yet.”— Excerpt from Amazon user “Paul3D” (Verified Purchase)

As you can see, buying the Autel scan tool on Amazon has the perks of fast shipping and great support from authorized sellers. Here’s another one.

John V is a verified buyer of the Autel MaxiSys MS919 and he says this about the tools speed and performance compared to other OBD scan tools he has used in the past-

 “I find that it is much faster than some of the other scanners I’ve been using in the past and really goes pretty deep into the subsystems allowing you to really find out what’s going on.”— excerpt from verified Amazon user “Frank”


It is important to point out that John mentions having an automotive background before using the MS919. The reason for that is the tool is 100% geared toward professional auto technicians as I said before. If a high-performance but mid-level scan tool is what you are looking for, check out some of the OBD tools made by Launch or the lower level Autel tools.

Combined across Amazon, Autel’s scan tools put together a super impressive 4.9 out of 5 star rating and the reviews are almost 100% excellent. I wasn’t lying when I talked about Autel’s reputation as a developer of high-quality electronic diagnostic tools. If you don’t believe me, check out the PS100 probe tester or the MaxiCharge HomeSmart EV charger.

Snap-On Scan Tool Ratings and Reviews

When looking for reviews of Snap-On scan tools, I’ll admit the job is a little trickier. Because the brand only sells on the tool truck and Snap-On’s website, it is a little bit harder to find unbiased reviews toward products like the Apollo D9 and Triton D10. Just because it’s harder to find formal reviews though does not mean it is impossible to get an idea what people think of diagnostic scan tools made by Snap-On.

YouTube Reviews on Snap-On Scan Tools

The reason it’s easy to find reviews of Snap-On automotive scan tools is because there is a wealth of YouTube videos out there from technicians all over the spectrum racing and ranting about the company’s scanners. Surprisingly the first video I came across with a google search of “Snap On scan tool reviews” was not what I expected.

In this video review of Snap-On’s scan tools, the creator strongly advises against buying a scanner off the Snap-On truck due to a lack of updates for the products once the company stops supporting the model. You can watch that video here. That’s just one persons opinion though, so I kept on looking. The next video was oddly titled “Snap-On doesn’t want you to see this scan tool” and it turned out to be a review of the Autel 906BT in which the creator reviewed the features of the Autel and compared them to Snap-On’s scan tools.

Autel’s 906BT on Amazon

The fact that you can buy the 906BT for such a low price compared to Snap-On seems to be a driving factor in Autel’s success competing against the tool truck scan tools. 

Snap-On seems to be losing versus Autel

I was honestly surprised to see that Snap-On seems to be getting beat up in the automotive scan tool market and Autel is the number one competitor to the tool truck brand. I expected technicians to be defending Snap-On scan tools or at least weighing in on the pros and cons but that didn’t seem to be the case. The cats out of the bag and auto technicians have taken a notice to the lower cost but higher functionality of Autel’s professional diagnostic scan tools.


Snap-On Main Features, Functions

Its a good probability that most of you are more familiar with the main features of a Snap-On scan tool and maybe not so much an Autel scanner. It’s just a non-debatable fact that the former has been around auto repair shops for a much longer time than the latter. It’s this fact that I think also scares some people away from Autel because they are so used to the interface used on Snap-On scan tools. Here are some of the main features of a Snap-On diagnostic scan tool anyways.

Snap on Apollo d9 automotive diagnostic scanner and lab scope
I’m this picture, you see the beautifully designed Apollo D9 from Snap-On tools.
Snap-On Vehicle Coverage

Autel boasts a 10,000 vehicle coverage system, so how many vehicles do Snap-On scanners cover? According to the specifications for the Snap-On Zeus, the scanner covers 12 European makes, 16 Asian makes, 21 Domestic (US) makes and 9 motorcycle makes. Is that 10,000 or more? Im honestly not sure but it’s obviously respectable. The question is- does Snap-On’s coverage of imports compare to Autel? Most techs would agree that Autel is superior in the import market- mainly European and Asian vehicle systems.

Snap-On Intelligent Diagnostics

As with Autel, Snap-On also includes an advanced intelligent diagnostics platform in its scan tools called Fast-Track. Included in the Fast-Track subscription is everything from relevant code information to TSB’s, wiring diagrams and repair procedures. Although it may be a bit more expensive, Snap-On’s intelligent diagnostics may have an advantage over the one offered by Autel.

Does Snap-On Scan Tool Offer ECU Coding?

From everything I can read, it does not look like Snap-On scan tools come with ECU coding or J2534 programming integrated. Instead, the company sells independent “pass thru” devices that connect to a laptop. In my eyes, this a major downside to the Snap-On platform of diagnostic scan tools. With the benefits of an ECU coding feature far outweighing the potential costs to add it, I feel like Snap-On dropped the ball on this one. Even the Launch X431 Pro, a mid-level scan tool manufacturer has a J2534 capable tool it sells on Amazon for under $1000.


With the advances in vehicle electronics systems, it’s basically a critical component for a scan tool to have a “lab scope” and the Apollo D9, Triton D-10 and Zeus from Snap-On among others come fully set up for a scope as well as live-graphing on its software. If you are not sure how to use one, figuring out how to use an oscilloscope can be a career changing skill. Don’t let the lab scope on your Snap-On scan tool go to waste.

Snap-On’s Operating System

As I touched on earlier in the post, one of the main benefits of a Snap-On scan tool versus an Autel is the user-friendly operating system. It’s not that Autel is hard to use, because it isn’t by any stretch but it is different. And it is a bit slower in terms of speed and performance versus a Snap-On Apollo or Triton. Whether the Autel makes up for this small difference in performance with its wealth of data on foreign cars and lower price tag is for you to decide.

Conclusion- Budget, Uses and Customer Base

In concluding this post, I will iterate that the decision of which scan tool you decide to buy will come down to a few key factors. One is your budget. If you are allocating funds conservatively, the Autel is your best bet every single time. It’s low price tag while not sacrificing key features makes it a hard deal to pass up. Another is what uses are you planning for your automotive scan tool? If your customer base is mostly import vehicles, the Autel may be a better choice while Snap-On likely wins out slightly in the domestic market. That’s debatable though as many techs will argue that the Autel MaxiSys MS909 and MS919 are just as capable as the Snap-On Apollo and Triton D-10.


Author- John Green


If you purchase through my website, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All posts are well researched and meant to find you better tools at a cheaper price.

By John Green

I’m John Green. I’m a 33 year old auto technician from Upstate New York. I have 18 years of experience as an automotive light duty and heavy duty truck mechanic. Cars, trucks and anything with moving parts are my passion in my professional life.

Aside from my life as a technician, I am also a seasoned investor and consider myself very financially literate. I use this other passion combined with my passion for cars, trucks and tools to look for ways to save money for my technician friends.

Raising my three girls and teaching them the proper way of life is my personal passion in life. If you want to know more, just ask! I’m on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well!