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What is a Smog Test Only Center?


What is the difference with a regular smog station and a test only station? You received your renewal notice and discovered it's asking for a smog inspection at a Smog Test Only Center. No need to panic. All this means is that the DMV has chosen your car to be inspected at a special Test Only smog station. A Smog Test Only center, as the name suggests, can only smog test vehicles and is not allowed to perform automotive repairs. A test only smog check center has an obligation to insure a non-biased smog test inspection. They can not perform repairs.

The State of California uses the following three strategies to determine whether a vehicle is Test Only Center designated or not:

  • Gross polluters (vehicles which have failed a previous smog inspection with very high emission readings)
  • High Emitter Profile vehicles. These are vehicle types designated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair as having high chances of failing the smog inspection.
  • A random sample of all vehicles registered in California and being driven on public roadways.

If your vehicle has been selected to undergo a Test Only smog check don't be alarmed. Simply locate a convenient smog test only center and proceed with the inspection. The smog technician conducting the test can inform you of any serious issues. There are several Smog Test Only Centers throughout California and you can find one in your area using our CA Test Only Smog Station Locator.

Important Note: If your vehicle fails at a Test Only Smog Check center, you will need to seek repairs at a Test and Repair station. The Test and Repair smog station will need to conduct a new smog test - called a Baseline Test, and may charge you a smog inspection fee as part of their diagnosis and/or repairs.

Also note that a smog test only station is not allowed to perform or comment on any diagnosis or possible required repairs. Per California State law their primary obligation is to conduct a fair and unbiased smog test.

All and any repairs must be performed by a licensed smog check repair station, or the vehicle's owner personally.

How much does a test only smog check cost? Does a test only center charge more?

Smog test only stations are not allowed to profit or perform any auto repairs, whether smog check related or not. In the past smog test only centers typically charged more for their smog inspection in order to cover their expenses. In today's market however, with competition being so great, and the fact that there are plenty of test only directed vehicles to go around, the cost of the test only smog check has been dramatically reduced.

It is not uncommon to find smog test only centers performing the smog test between $29.95 and $39.95 plus fees, which amount to approximately $40 to $50 out-the-door.

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