Purchasing a new scan tool may be a more-challenging task than many bosses realize. Now, more than ever, a prudent purchaser should establish priorities first and then shop patiently for a product or products that fill those needs.
First and foremost, always inventory your service department's most-important diagnostic needs.
Then seek the scan tool that accommodates as many of those needs as practically possible. Please don't make assumptions about those needs. Instead, do some essential homework first.
For example, review service records to see which vehicles constitute the lion's share of volume at your business. Obviously, your next scan tool purchase should perform well on this range of vehicles.
Second, organize team meetings with your service manager, shop foreman and technicians.
Ask them to begin making lists of scan tool functions for these high-volume vehicles that your existing equipment lacks. In particular, give each tech a notepad and the assignment to write down "wish lists" of scan tool functions and features they want for vehicles they already see as well as those they expect to see in the future.
This approach may take more time than you expected, but it's an invaluable input for a smart scan tool purchase.
Third, research the makes and models that are increasing among vehicle purchases within your market.
Also, ask your entire service team for their suggestions on vehicles your business should be attracting — potential growth opportunities. Then, factor these vehicles into your scan tool needs list.
Fourth, consider the practicality of updating your service department with several smaller, specialty scan tools that perform task such as turning out service reminder lights, handle TPMS chores, etc.
Over the long term, separating these kinds of task from your business' main scan tool(s) may be the most-effective plan.
A lifetime ago, it seems, I should diagnostic equipment.
Something I observed 35 years ago still applies today: Some prospects have a good grasp of their service department's needs, but others do not.
What's more, some owners and managers expect the equipment seller's current, highlighted features to automatically meet all their actual needs out in the bays. That notion is, at best, wishful thinking.
Fifth, carefully evaluate the updatability of your potential purchase.
Generally speaking, PC-based scan tools are the easiest to update. Besides features such as speed, flexibility and memory, that's a major reason why PC-based equipment is dominating the upper end of the scan tool market today.
Don't overlook other aspects of a PC-based tester's flexibility.
For one thing, suppose you back up everything on that tester regularly. If so, then you're prepared in case the computer crashes for some reason.
Just buy a new PC (usually a laptop) and install all your software and data on it. Then you're back in business.
Furthermore, investing in a PC-based scan tool eases the task of including OEM scanner software in the future.
The advantages of OEM scan tool software are a topic unto themselves. Suffice to say that this software may be a wise investment for diagnosing the vehicles your business services most often.
It may provide invaluable pieces of data as well as "active" functions (sometimes called bi-directional controls) that an aftermarket tool may not offer.
Last but not least, I urge readers to schedule a reasonable demonstration of any equipment before the purchase. Block out the appropriate time so your techs can peruse a scan tool's features and actually operate — experience the "buttonology" of the product.
I have seen too many instances where a boss suffered buyer's remorse because he or she failed to schedule adequate time for techs to road-test a potential scan tool purchase.
Taken together, these steps drastically reduce the risk of a foolish equipment buy.