Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of mortality in type 2 diabetes mellitus. The criteria for the selection of those asymptomatic patients with type 2 diabetes who should undergo cardiac screening and the therapeutic consequences of screening remain controversial. Non-invasive techniques as markers of atherosclerosis and myocardial ischaemia may aid risk stratification and the implementation of tailored therapy for the patient with type 2 diabetes. In the present article we review the literature on the implementation of non-invasive vascular tools and cardiac imaging techniques in this patient group. The value of these techniques as endpoints in clinical trials and as risk estimators in asymptomatic diabetic patients is discussed. Carotid intima-media thickness, arterial stiffness and flow-mediated dilation are abnormal long before the onset of type 2 diabetes. These vascular tools are therefore most likely to be useful for the identification of 'at risk' patients during the early stages of atherosclerotic disease. The additional value of these tools in risk stratification and tailored therapy in type 2 diabetes remains to be proven. Cardiac imaging techniques are more justified in individuals with a strong clinical suspicion of advanced coronary heart disease (CHD). Asymptomatic myocardial ischaemia can be detected by stress echocardiography and myocardial perfusion imaging. The more recently developed non-invasive multi-slice computed tomography angiography is recommended for exclusion of CHD, and can therefore be used to screen asymptomatic patients with type 2 diabetes, but has the associated disadvantages of high radiation exposure and costs. Therefore, we propose an algorithm for the screening of asymptomatic diabetic patients, the first step of which consists of coronary artery calcium score assessment and exercise ECG.