Laser barcode readers are very similar to pen-style barcode readers except they are more expensive, and have a wider range. Laser barcode readers are the ones you most often see being used to scan purchases in retail stores. These barcode readers have a light source and a photo diode that together provide a way for the barcode reader to "read" the barcode label and obtain the information previously entered into the barcode system about whatever is being scanned. While laser barcode readers and pen readers work in mainly the same way, a laser reader uses a laser beam as a light source, hence the name, and a moving mirror or prism inside to reflect the light, whereas pen-style barcode readers have no moving parts and much simpler scanning system.

There are many various uses for laser barcode readers, including the grocery store checkout that they were originally designed for. Retail stores use laser readers to track inventory, input price and product information, and speed up the checkout process. Laser barcode readers make themselves even more beneficial by featuring both stationary and hand-held models. This allows stores to use essentially the same reader for all purposes.

Since laser barcode readers can read a barcode at a distance and don't need to actually touch the label, the applications for a laser barcode readers are much more flexible. This is why laser barcode readers are the most popular reader used today. Laser barcode readers are also fairly affordable, although not as inexpensive as the pen-style barcode readers, and can be purchased and maintained relatively easily even in large amounts.

The disadvantages of the laser barcode readers are few. The width of the scanner face can be problematic with products, like furniture, that come with wider barcodes. This means that retailers must purchase additional barcode readers with wider heads that can read the entire label, otherwise the item cannot be tracked by the system at all.

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