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Understand the California Smog Inspection Program

Are smog inspections in California unique?

Smog inspections can vary quite a bit from state to state, with some like Alabama and Kansas requiring no smog tests, while states like Missouri require smog testing every single year in certain counties.

California falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, requiring smog tests, but only on some cars and only once every two years for cars that aren’t exempt.


What is the STAR program?

The STAR program governs the standards for smog inspections. They maintain physical locations throughout the state, some of which provide smog testing, while the others are able to provide both testing and repairs.

The important bit about STAR stations is that state laws require a certain number of vehicles to get their smog inspections at STAR stations. As a result, you may find that your registration renewal notice specifically directs you to a STAR station to get your smog check.

It’s important to note that non-STAR stations aren’t necessarily worse. You can get smog inspections from non-STAR sources that offer premium service, the difference is just that STAR stations are guaranteed to meet certain high standards, whereas other stations aren’t held to those same standards.